Courses overview

Gnawa music and dance

Mohamed Saïd Akasri
Driss Filali
MABO - Lycée Maria-Boodschap - Rue de la Braie 22, 1000 Bruxelles

The music, song and dance of the Gnawas is part of Moroccan folk culture. Originally, their musical performances were religiously inspired and performed in private circles. The meeting between gnawa and jazz musicians in the early 1970s made the music known outside the community. The gnawa rhythms mixed smoothly with genres such as jazz, reggae, and blues, opening up the world of the Gnawa to a wider audience and the major international stages.

The main instrument of gnawa music is the guembri, a three-stringed bass lute that retained its typical character throughout time. Other instruments include the distinctive karkabas, the metal castanets, and the tbel, the drum, which provide rhythmic accompaniment.

The gnawa tradition is passed on by a master or mâalem. The mâalem plays a central role in Gnawa culture. He is a singer, dancer and instrumentalist. He knows the repertoire of songs inside out, plays all the instruments and masters dance choreography to perfection. He transfers his knowledge orally to the next generation.

The course

Mohammed and Driss want to make gnawa music and promote intercultural exchange. They also encourage fusions with other musical styles. In this course, you will learn the rhythms and choreography specific to gnawa music. Mâalem Driss also ensures that there is plenty of time for question-and-answer sessions each time. Everyone is welcome! Instruments will be available.

This course is organised in collaboration with MetX.

Mohamed Saïd Akasri

Mohamed Saïd Akasrik is a percussionist and plays several instruments, a.o. drums, qraqeb and t’bel. These last two are traditional Morrocan percussion instruments frequently used in gnawa-music.

 Mohamed Saïd starts playing music at the age of 12. Member of a Molenbeek youth centre, he organises music workshops together with a friend and one of his brothers. It becomes their favourite pastime and they learn to play several instruments as autodidacts. After a while another Akasri brother, himself a musician, invites them to play together and form the first group in Brussels to play traditional Morrocan music.

Driss Filali

Driss Filali is a mâalem, or master gnawa musician, and one of the key artists from the Moroccan diaspora in Brussels. He’s a member and one of the composers of the gnawa-jazz band Marockin’ Brass and also co-artistic coordinator of the gnawa training program Karkaba.

 As the son of mâalem Selam, Driss Filali grows up in Morocco in a community where the gnawa-culture is omnipresent. From an early age, he learns to play music with his father and his nephew, mâalem Hamid. Together they perform at different lilas, traditional gnawa ceremonies, in Morroco and at festivals in France and Belgium.

 In 2005 he performs together with his nephew at the international gnawa festival of Essaouira, after which Driss comes to Belgium in 2007. He soon meets Luc Mishalle, who proposes him to join the group Marockin’ Brass. Together, they start playing concerts in Belgium and abroad and write the band’s fourth album Beats & Pieces.

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Registration is possible from 7 August 2023!

Come and discover this course at the free introductory class on Thursday 21 September 2023, from 8 pm to 3:30 pm.

Ensemble (10 lessons/cycle)

Thursday: 8:00 – 9:30 pm

Registration is compulsory from the second lesson of each cycle.


MABO - Lycée Maria-Boodschap
Rue de la Braie 22, 1000 Bruxelles


To register for a course, membership of Muziekpublique is mandatory.

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If necessary the teacher can vary the calendar in consultation with the course members.


Cycle 1
€ 140
Cycle 2
€ 140

 140,00 250,00