Innov Gnawa in performance. Master Hassan Ben Jafaar, sintir, on the left; Samir LanGus, second from the left.
Deceptively simple, at once direct and mysterious, earthy and spiritual, Gnawa music is the expression of the black community of Morocco which, initially, according to scholars, was comprised of black slaves who, over time, became free as historical circumstances changed.
Associating and translating cultural experiences are exercises fraught with peril. But if this all sounds oddly familiar, it might explain why Gnawa music has often been called “the blues of Morocco.”
“Gnawa is the mother of jazz and blues,” says Samir LanGus, the founding member of Innov Gnawa, a Brooklyn-based group appearing at the North Beach Bandshell Saturday. “Gnawa [music] stayed in Africa, and jazz and blues came to the West. What we sing about, the troubles and joys of everyday life, it’s the blues.”