Saturday, September 13, 2014

Gnawa NYC

Yep, there is now a Gnawa zawiya in the South Bronx.

The photo is courtesy Samir LanGus via Facebook. LanGus is the guy in green clanging the kerakeb in the photo above. He is part of the South Bronx-based Gnawa troupe Innove, who, amazingly, were selected in May by the MTA to be part of their Music Under New York program, meaning they would get perform in “prime subway station spots.”

 Innove Gnawa Band

And here is a vid of them playing "Merhaba" (a song that welcomes the mluk, the "spirits" that the Gnawa cult propitiates), on September 7, at the 34th St Herald Square station (on the BMT Broadway Line and the IND Sixth Avenue Line of the New York City Subway), the third busiest station in the system.

For more on how Gnawa music can now be seen commonly in New York City, please read the fantastic article in the New Yorker (September 2) by my friend and colleague Hisham Aidi, entitled "Claude McKay and the Gnawa Scene." And yes, McKay first saw the Gnawa in 1928, in Casablanca.

And Innove isn't the only Gnawa group in the city. As Aidi informs us, there is also Gnawa Boussou and Nass Gnawa.

Nass Gnawa (which includes the great Brahim Fribgane) live:

And Gnawa Boussou (also featuring Brahim Fribgane):

I went to several Gnawa lilas when I was in Morocco in summer 1999. I hope I get to go to one in NYC, sometime soon! 

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