Posts Tagged ‘simo lagnawi’

Songlines Essential 10: Gnawa Albums

Posted on March 6th, 2015 in Recent posts by .


Gnawa music is notoriously difficult to record, but there are a few choice releases out there. Here is our selection of the best traditional and fusion Gnawa albums

Words by Simon Broughton, Tim Cumming, Alexandra Petropoulos

Majid Bekkas – Makenba (Igloo, 2010)
Although he began playing oud and guitar and is not Gnawa by birth, Bekkas has become a formidable gimbri player and the leading Moroccan name in Gnawa jazz with over a dozen albums. Here he works with bass clarinet and sax player Louis Sclavis, balafon player Aly Keita and Minino Garay on percussion. SB


Maâllem Mokhtar Gania – Gnawa Sufi Trance: Music of Morocco (Standard Records, 2004)
Mokhtar Gania, brother of Mahmoud Gania (also spelt Guinia), is from one of the great Gnawa dynasties. He leads some real lila trance sessions to various jinns. Powerful gimbri, clashing qaraqab and ululating women. It feels like the real thing. Reviewed in #28. SB


Gnawa Diffusion – Souk System (Warner Jazz France, 2003)
Gnawa Diffusion offer an all-inclusive type of fusion. You can find a bit of everything – Gnawa, chaabi, reggae, ska, rock, and even a hint of country & western. These all help to conjure a unique universe of Moroccan souks tucked within a French suburb. Gnawa Diffusion brings the lilting sounds of Gnawa into the 21st century. Reviewed in #24. AP


Hassan Hakmoun – Trance (Real World, 1993)
Hakmoun grew up in Marrakech and was schooled in the traditional sounds of Gnawa. He moved to the US in 1987 and began incorporating the various influences he picked up along the way into his music. Trance, recorded in just four days with his band Zahar, offers an exciting electrified brand of Gnawa that takes in driving electric guitars over the trance-inducing repetition of the gimbri. AP


Simo Lagnawi – Gnawa London (Waulk Records, 2013)
Maâlem (Gnawa master) Simo Lagnawi had already made his name in the UK as a collaborator in various musical projects including the Gnawa fusion band Electric Jalaba before releasing this, his solo debut, in 2013. Easing back from the electric fusion of his earlier work, it’s a subtler fusion featuring his arrangements of traditional tunes, and is very much in the spirit of an all-night lila with lilting gimbri and clacking qaraqab. Reviewed in #94. AP


Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa – Mazal (World Village, 2014)
Originally a founding member of Orchestre National de Barbès, Aziz Sahmaoui first put together University of Gnawa, a mix of Moroccan and Senegalese musicians in 2011. For Mazal, their second album, Sahmaoui, kora player Cheikh Diallo, guitarist Hervé Samb, bassist Alioune Wade and percussionist Adhil Mirghani perform another excellent set of Gnawa fusion that throws Moroccan chaabi into the mix. A Top of the World review in #105. AP


Various Artists – Anthologie Musicale des Gnaoua (Yerma Gnaoua Association, 2014)
This is a nine-disc box set that was assembled for the Yerma Gnaoua Association and Essaouira’s Gnawa Festival. It features a lila’s worth of performances from all over the region. The set documents Gnawa’s rhythmic, melodic, lyric and stylistic richness, documenting the intricate phases and stages of the lila repertoire. While it is not available to purchase, it will be distributed in libraries and conservatories as an excellent resource. TC


Various Artists – Gnawa Home Songs (Accords Croisés, 2006)
Beautifully recorded in the village of Tameslouht, which hosts the largest traditional Gnawa gathering, this features a selection of the best maâlem – Ahmed & Hassan Boussou, Hamid Kasri, Zef Zaf and others. Dispensing with the qaraqab brings the vocals and fine gimbri playing to the fore. Probably the best disc of traditional Gnawa music there is. Reviewed in #45. SB


Various Artists – Night Spirit Masters (Axiom, 1991)
This has been long admired as one of the benchmark discs of Gnawa music. Produced by Bill Laswell and made in the medina in Marrakech, this very lively recording with a large group of musicians keeps the qaraqab in check but has lots of atmosphere. Hard to find but worth it. SB


Various Artists – World of Gnawa (Rounder Records, 2001)
A comprehensive double-CD that includes lila music dedicated to different jinns and their associated colours. It features some of the best maâlem of the 90s including Mustapha Baqbou and Abdenbi Binizi. It is unbeatable for its hugely extensive notes and translations, but is probably better for research than listening. SB

LET US KNOW Have any other suggestions? Write and let us know,

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Live performances at Destinations 2015, Olympia London

Posted on January 22nd, 2015 in Music Travel, News, Recent posts by .


Simo Lagnawi, Son Yambu and Diabel Cissokho will perform during this year’s Destinations holiday & travel show at the Olympia London from January 29-February 1

Taking place for the first time at the Olympia, Destinations London is the UK’s largest travel show and melting pot of great ideas for your next getaway. This year Songlines has chosen three musicians from Morocco, Senegal and Cuba to perform on the Africa and Americas stages.

On Thursday and Friday catch one of London’s hardest working multi-instrumentalists and dancers, Simo Lagnawi (Morocco), who is widely regarded as the UK’s leading gimbri player and Gnawa master. Over the weekend Cuban ensemble Son Yambu will deliver their own authentic blend of classic son cubano, while Senegalese griot and renowned kora player, Diabel Cissokho, will bring the sounds of West Africa to Olympia.

Find out more about Songlines Music Travel on the website or visit our stand (AA19) over the four days.

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Sahara Ganga with Simo Lagnawi, April 19

Posted on April 17th, 2014 in Live, News, Recent posts by .



Photograph by Hassan Hajjaj

Moroccan musician Simo Lagnawi will curate a special Gnawa extravaganza dubbed Sahara Ganga this weekend at Passing Clouds in London, April 19.

Lagnawi is a gimbri (long-necked lute) player known for his Gnawa (Moroccan trance music) fusions, in particular with Electric Jalaba. He won World Music Network’s Battle of the Bands and released his solo debut, Gnawa London (a Top of the World in #94) last summer, solidifying him as the UK’s leading gimbri player.

In addition to featuring world renowned Gnawa musicians such as iHasan, Jawad, Khalid and Mejid, there will be poets, dance groups and DJs to demonstrate the wide spectrum of talent from this entrancing fusion music world.

For more information on Sahara Ganga, check the event page here.

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Simo Lagnawi wins World Music Network’s Battle of the Bands

Posted on June 14th, 2013 in News, Recent posts by .

World Music Network announce the latest winner in their Battle of the Bands

Simo Lagnawi is a Moroccan Gnawa maalem (master musician) and guembri (lute) player, who honed his craft with Gnawa masters in Morocco for 20 years before establishing himself as the UK’s premier guembri player. This week he has been named winner of World Music Network’s Battle of the Bands.

Lagnawi won the WMN battle with his high-energy acrobatic dancing combined with strident vocals, qaraqab (metal castanets) and guembri playing. Through his desire to ‘take Gnawa past its traditional limitations’ as well as keeping the traditional form of Gnawa alive, Lagnawi continues to step beyond the boundaries of the traditional in his collaborations in projects such as Electric Jalaba and Kamba Band

Voted for by WMN’s fans, Lagnawi topped the list with his track ‘Baniyorkoy’. This song will appear on a forthcoming project with World Music Network. 

Photography by Hassan Hajjaj




See a video of the winning track:


Simo Lagnawi’s debut album Gnawa London will be reviewed in our next issue, Aug/Sept 2013 (#94) on sale July 19. Visit Simo Lagnawi’s website to find out more.

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