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The Gnawa community in Brussels comprises some 40 musicians, making it this culture’s most important community outside of Morocco. The presence of these musicians has been known for 20 years. For the first time, there’s the project of an album bringing together m’allemin (master musicians) and koyo (dancing musicians) originating from Brussels, Tangiers, Fez, Casablanca, Marrakech and Salé, a reflection of the Brussels Gwana universe. The album, called Jola – Hidden Gnawa Music in Brussels (Muziekpublique 12), is one of the results of the doctoral work of musicologist Hélène Sechehaye, as part of her dissertation at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Université Jean Monnet.
In order to introduce the album, Darna and Muziekpublique propose an exchange-conference. Hélène Sechehaye will examine the Gnawa from the Brussels-Marolles area and their musical practices, within the local context of their installation in Brussels. She will also address the links between this group and Morocco and the other diaspora countries. While analyzing its rituals (lila), concerts, rehearsals, marriage repertoires and the informal moments of the music, she will present a portrait of the community.
The reinstallation of the Gnawa outside of Morocco implies a constant adaptation of their practices, in order to be able to integrate themselves into the different societies in which they are led to evolve – be it the Moroccan communities in Brussels, in Morocco or elsewhere abroad; be it in the Belgian society, in professional circuits of world music… How do the Gnawa give a sense to their musical practice in Belgium? What can one learn from their acrobatic dances and their bewitching melodies? How do they legitimize their practices, how do they place themselves within the heritage of the sub-Saharan slaves that arrived in Morocco during the last centuries?
After a short introductory conference, these issues will be discussed. A musical moment will be offered by one of the Brussels Gnawa, Driss Benjaafar.
The album Jola – Hidden Gnawa Music in Brussels is a project supported by Darna, Muziekpublique, the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, the Centre Interdisciplinaire d’Etudes et de Recherches sur l’Expression Contemporaine, Gnaoua Culture and the Société Française d’Ethnomusicologie.