World, Culture, Africa

Morocco music fest pays tribute to slaves' tribulations

19th edition of Gnaoua World Music Festival is now underway in Moroccan city of Essaouira

14.05.2016
Morocco music fest pays tribute to slaves' tribulations American free jazz bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma performs on the stage during 19th Annual Gnaoua Music Festival at Moulay Hassan square in Essaouira, Morocco on May 14, 2016. ( Jalal Morchidi - Anadolu Agency )

By Mohamed al-Taheri

ESSAOUIRA, Morocco

The 19th edition of the Gnaoua World Music Festival is now underway in the Moroccan city of Essaouira, which showcases various blends of international music united by their African roots.

On Friday night, American jazz artist Jamal al-Din Takoma and his band put on a jazz music performance in Hassan II Square inside the walls of Essaouira’s Old City.

Takoma, 70, who hails from the U.S. city of Philadelphia, enthralled the audience with his performance of melodies that told the story of the Afro-America "diaspora".

He was eventually joined on stage by France-based Hassan Bousso, head of a Moroccan Gnaoua band.

In the mixed-music show that followed, both bands -- using a host of different instruments -- performed a series of numbers about their African roots and their shared love of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

This year’s festival aims to revive the memory and traditions of both Gnaoua and jazz, utilizing a mixture of different international music genres.

The city of Essaouira, which has been designated a world heritage site by UNESCO, hosts the Gnaoua World Music Festival Every year.

The event is a tribute to the suffering of black slaves who worked in the royal palaces of North Africa before converting to Islam and establishing their own Sufi order influenced by ancient African ritual and the Islamic traditions prevalent at the time in Morocco.

Gnaoua songs celebrate slaves’ suffering during their arduous journeys from their homelands.

Relying largely on African tribal melodies, the songs pay tribute to the peaceful coexistence that once existed between Morocco’s Muslims of African, Amazigh and Arab descent.

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