Nineteen years ago, a festival was born that sought to be the voice of a tradition, memory and music. Nineteen years ago, a team with something like utopia in mind launched a 100% Souiri, 100% Moroccan and especially 100% African event. 19 years ago, the maalems ushered in a new chapter of their life, a decidedly international chapter. 19 years ago, the Gnaoua and World Music Festival took its first steps in Essaouira with the hope to reach as many people as possible. In 19 years, this unique get-together proved that it counted and that it was among the not-to-be missed events on the Moroccan and international stage. Below is a close up look on an edition dedicated to wisdom, memory and youth.
Essaouira, the epicenter of Gnaoui Music
The Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival was born of an almost insane idea of creating a free, popular musical get-together where Gnaoua music would be the star the world would flock to hear! This idea was launched in 1998 like a message from a bottle at sea that has come a long way since. Harboring the sole values of freedom, friendliness, universality and fraternity, the Festival has been able to rekindle the memory,the heritage and this Gnaoui music resounding within the walls of Essaouira and those of many other cities of Morocco.The city was re-bornwith the Festival lending it force and reconstituting the magic of yesteryear. It began to attract attendees from Morocco and the world. It bewitches musicians and music lovers while everyone flows into Essaouira with the Festival becoming a not-to-be missed meeting place. Beyond the power of getting together around music, the Festival has given a true status to the maalems so long deemed to be nothing more than mere entertainers. In a few years, these masters of tradition and transmission of African heritage have become full-fledged icons international audiences regard with envy.
A festival located in the heart of Africa,with an African heart
One which was for a long time called « Timbuktu Port» was the home of a pioneering Festival that had already focused on the force of Africa.Today, Morocco has never been so resolutely focussed on Africa so the Gnaoua Festivalis actually in tune with country’s economic policy. On top of the African program with African stars travelling every year to Essaouira and the musical residences and fusions,the Festival has createditscitizens’Forum organized in partnership with the National Council of Human Rights with major topical themes to debate, exchange ideas and make progress. The Festival is also home to jazz music whose origins are deeply-rooted in Africa.The Festival has received big international stars and great jazz names who fell under the spell of the guembri and Gnaoui music.The great Marcus Miller played along with the ancestor of his instrument, the bass, and took inspiration from the Gnaoui music that he plays athis concerts or during recording sessions. From Didier Lockwood to Ayo and Ibrahim Maalouf, Maceo Parker or Richard Bona to mention only these artsits, they all performed on the Gnaoua Festival stage and felt the magic of music. That moment left a lasting mark upon them for the luckiest ones the time of a concert and for true buffs time of an entire life.
Youth First and foremost!
The Festival has always been keen on music, memory, traditions, older artists and the power they hold, but more particularly on the upcoming generations and the force of creative youth! On top of a young public always eager to join in, music is thought of for the new generation. To allow this tradition to last and to be passed on, the power of transmission has always been a recurrent theme for the Gnaoua Festival.By creating a genuine school and honest-to-goodness Gnaoua trend under constant development and creating a bona fide statute for traditional Gnaoua musicians, the Festival gave back confidence in this music the young wind up connecting to and identifying with. This year, a springboard has been created upstream to allow three new maalems to perform on the stage! A 100% local artistic residence made in Essaouira overseen by Abdesslam Alikane will uncover new talents along with a springboard of Ouled Mogador Music Action seeking new talents from the Essaouira spring.
19th edition full of wisdom!
With this 19th edition, the Festival which last year sumptuously celebrated its 18th anniversary is now reaching adulthood. After the age of reason, comes the age of awareness! This edition will open on a wonderful tributeto the person who has made the Festival what it has become today: maalem Mahmoud Guinea! A tribute will also be paid to the great Doudou Ndiaye Rose, magician of the Senegalese drum, deceased just a few days after Guinea. A tribute paid by their respective children, those who give hope to keep the flame alive! Between fusions and residences, the key Festival get-togethers will still be maintained! Africa will be present everywhere serving as the guiding light of the Festival with top performers who bring honour to the music world! After all the international stars who performed there the Moulay Hassan stage will carry on the tradition with Randy Weston, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Christian Scott, the Jeff Balard Trio orHassan Hakmoun.While Blitz the Ambassador will represent the force offunky and Jazzyhip hop of Ghana mixed with this New York experience,Songhoy Blues will bring the energy of Mali before Las Migas from Barcelona enchant the public,or the Moroccan Hoba Hoba Sprit musicians liven it up with their captivating energy.FromMoulay Hassan Square concerts, at the beach through intimate night concerts at Dar Souiri. Daytime will be dotted with the Tree of discussion and the festival’s Citizen Forum organized in partnership with the National Council of Human Rights (CNDH). A musical program focusing on the exchange of knowledge which will be sublimated by a tribute paid to the great Tayeb Seddiki and the exhibit by artist Hassan Hajjaj! Thus,Essaouira is braced to welcome its faithful public for free outdoor concerts at reach for everyone! So Let’s celebrate andgive way to music!