With some forty Gnawa musicians currently resident here, Brussels may legitimately be called the Gnawa capital of Europe. Now, for the first time after twenty years of living in Belgium, JOLA brings them together in an album that reflects the world of the Gnawa of Brussels.
In Moroccan Arabic dialect, the ‘JOLA’ (or ‘tour’) is the term for an essential step in a musician’s initiation to the tagnawit (the ‘way of the Gnawa’). All apprentices follow the teaching of a specific master but their training is not considered over until they have completed a ‘tour’ of the Gnawa alone, travelling from town to town to meet other musicians, learn other techniques and discover other worlds of sound, other ways of thinking. This album takes the listener on a journey to make the acquaintance of the Gnawa from different cities who have settled in Brussels.
The structure of the album reflects that of the līla (‘night’, a Gnawa all-night ritual). The listener accompanies the musicians, step by step, on a spiritual journey of initiation, carried along by the ostinato notes of the guembri. The līla structure is based on a repertoire made up of four main parts, each related to a specific movement: the sacrifice (ḏbīḥa), the drum procession (‘āda), the celebration dances (frāǧa) and the possession trances (mlūk).
The booklet that you can find inside this album is one of the results of the doctoral work carried out by the musicologist Hélène Sechehaye as part of her thesis at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Université Jean Monnet. This community with an immense cultural heritage will therefore no longer hold any secrets for you.
More info : Jola-Hidden Gnawa Music in Brussels