sat 21/09/2019

theartsdesk at the Gnawa Festival, Essaouira | reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk at the Gnawa Festival, Essaouira

theartsdesk at the Gnawa Festival, Essaouira

400,000 people converge on what may be this year's biggest Festival

Gnawa musicians playing at opening ceremonyRichard Duebel
Come the end of June in Essaouira on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, up to half a million festival-goers team the narrow, traffic-free streets of the medina, its two huge open squares, and numerous courtyards and riyads around town, for what must be the world’s biggest free festival. It is dedicated to Gnawa, the trance and healing music of African Moroccans who had been inveigled into slavery in centuries past – there was a slave market in Essaouria until the early part of the 20th century – and whose music, until the festival kicked off in 1998, was regarded with suspicion and disdain by contemporary Morocco.
Essaouira benefits from a strange anomaly of magnetism that means the fishing port's many boats require a specially adjusted compass to navigate by

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