The countdown to the Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival is on!

Marionettes at the Gnaoua World Music Festival, Essaouira

Locals gathered around in the streets, on the rooftops and over gates. It was my first festival and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But as the Gnaoua musicians began to fill the streets with rhythmic music that had us dancing in the streets, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. One Gnaoua group after another paraded through the streets as they sang, danced and created more noise than imaginable. Each troupe more colourful and vibrant than the next with the beautiful giant puppets closing the parade.

The 18th edition of the Gnaoua and World Music Festival kicks off on Thursday 14 May 2015 and pays tribute to African women. I can hardly wait. In fact I would say I’m as excited as I used to be for Vegas weekends when I lived in Canada.

I’m planning my schedule now with the following concerts high on my list:

Opening parade – all Gnaoua groups
Thursday 14 May 2015
Essaouira medina
17h00

Maalem Hamid el Kasri
Thursday 14 May 2015
20h00
Main stage

A Gnaoua festival favourite and legend, Maalem Hamid el Kasri and his group are one of my favourites.  His main stage show at the 2013 festival was a highlight and I now make a point of seeing all of his shows during the festival. As a maalem (master Gnaoui) it only makes sense that he would pass his skills on to the next generation, don’t be surprised if his young son makes a solo performance.

Timbuktu
Friday 15 May 2015
23h00
Bastion Bab Marrakech

Funky beats, lyrics that I don’t understand, and a unique sound make this one of my must-sees. In fact, the group is performing in one of my favourite venues – the rooftop of Bastion Bab Marrakech, always the stage for cool artists in an intimate atmosphere.

Hindi Zahra
Friday 15 May 2015
00h30
Main stage / Place Moulay Hassan

Having recently released her second album filled with her raw voice, Berber roots, and English lyrics, I’ve been listening to her new tunes in anticipation of her concert on the main stage.

Kenny Garret and Maalem Hassan Boussou
Saturday 16 May 2015
22h05
Main stage / Place Moulay Hassan

I always love when a Western artist fuses with a Gnaoua musician to create a unique and energetic result. According to the Wikipedia, the New York Times has named Garret “one of the most admired alto saxophonists in jazz after Charlie Parker“. He’s also played with Miles Davis’ band. And on this night, he’ll be performing with a Gnaoua master.  Yep. That’s where I’ll be on Saturday evening.

Humayan Khan and Maalem Hamid El Kasri
Saturday 16 May 2015
01h00
Main stage / Place Moulay Hassan

An Afghani vocalist and harmonium player on stage with master Gnaoui Hamid El Kasri. All I can say is: Do not miss this show!

For updates throughout the festival follow me on Instagram, Twitter or the general #gnaoualive. For more information, visit the festival Web site or download the festival app.

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  1. […] stop Essaouira for my favourite weekend of the year, the Gnaoua and World Music Festival. While significantly less partying than last year, the music and ambiance were brilliant. Omar […]



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