Friday, May 23, 2008

Music of Black Africa on Future Radio


'If something is boring for one minute try it for two, and if it is still boring, try it for four minutes; eventually one discovers it is interesting' - Zen saying.

Find out whether the Zen masters are right this holiday weekend when my Future Radio programme scores another first with the broadcast premiere of a complete African trance ritual recorded in the Medina of Marrakech, Morocco. The performance is by traditional gnawa musicians (photo above) and has been made possible by a collaboration between the Norwich community station Future Radio 96.9FM and KamarStudios who are based in Marrakech and New York.

Marrakech is known as the Gate of Black Africa and gnawa music came to Morocco from sub-Saharan Africa with the slave trade. For centuries gnawa has only been played in secret spirit-possession and healing ceremonies called lilas that evolved from ancient African animistic and Islamic Sufi rituals. In these religious rites healing spirits are said “to mount” the possessed, who whirl and writhe in an ecstatic trance.

Recordings of the gnawa trance rituals are very rare as they are performed in private. But KamarStudios have worked with leading gnawa musicians to record the complete ‘black’ section of the twelve hour long Nights of the Seven Colours trance ritual which celebrates the creation of the universe. The ‘black’ ritual lasts for two hours and in a broadcast first will be aired on Future Radio without interruption. The performance is led by gnawa master musician Abbes Baska Larfaoui supported by eighteen musicians and dancers.

Gnawa music, which combines vocals with repetitive and intricate cross rhythms on percussion has many connections with contemporary music and now has its own festival at Essaouira on the Moroccan coast which attracts an international audience, while Steve Reich and many other contemporary composers have been influenced by African drum rhythms.

To reflect these contemporary connections the broadcast of the sacred lilas is being paired with a one hour set which combines the traditional gnawa musicians with two young Marrakech DJs whose influences range from Philip Glass to Bill Laswell. This one hour electro-acoustic ‘minimalist trance’ set concludes the webcast which starts on Future Radio at 12.01am UK time early on Monday morning May 26 which is Sunday afternoon or evening in North America, find precise local time here.

Remember also my interview with Jordi Savall which is being broadcast at 5.00pm UK time this Sunday May 25. As the gnawa trance broadcast takes the usual Overgrown Path repeat slot early on Monday morning the Jordi Savall interview is getting a special repeat at 12.01am on Wednesday May 28, which is Tuesday afternoon or evening in North America.

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