...and the musicians were paid £800
Back in 2008 I curated what was probably the first and only broadcast of a complete lilal night healing ritual performed by the sub-Saharan musicians known as Gnawa. As a result of that broadcast, eight years later I was invited to a Gnawa trance ritual in Essaouira on Morocco's Atlantic coast. That lilal was a private devotional event which I was privileged to attend with a Moroccan Sufi friend. But like all musicians, the Gnawa rely on commercial performances for their income. That source of income was abruptly terminated by the Covid pandemic. Which has left many Gnawa musicians facing extreme hardship in a country where fiscal safety-nets are much more fallible than in the West, and as a result a priceless cultural tradition is at risk. UNESCO intiative led to 75 gnawan master musicians gathering in Essaouira in December for the filming of a two hour TV special that has just been aired on Morocco's Channel 1. The French Moroccan civil servant and politician Audrey Azoulay is Director-General of UNESCO and the second female to head the organization. She is the daughter of André Azoulay. He is a Moroccan Jewish politician who was born in Essaouira, a city with strong links to Judaism. As a senior adviser to King Mohammed VI of Morocco André Azoulay is a fervent champion of Essaouira and has published two books about the city.
All the master musicians were paid 10,000 Moroccan dirham (£800/$1000) and rank and file musicians 3500 dhs (£280/$400). Which may not seem much by Western standards, but to musicians who have had no income for two years it must be a very welcome payment - the average Moroccan salary is 60,000 dhs (£4800/$6000). My source reports that the concert was "like a big sadaqa" - sadaqa is a voluntary offering in the Muslim world.
I met at a 2016 music workshop for local women run by Sufi adept Ahmed Abdelhak Kaâb in Essaouira.
This impressively-produced Gnawa TV special is available on YouTube - the vernacular links by a Moroccan presenter are very brief. It is essential viewing, particularly for the armchair activists and cultural commentators who promote their own narrow and self-interested version of diversity in art music. Now watch via this link.