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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The gnawa lions: paths towards learning ritual music in contemporary Morocco
Author:Witulski, Christopher
Periodical:The Journal of North African Studies (ISSN 1743-9345)
Geographic term:Morocco
Subjects:traditional music
popular music
cultural change
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/13629387.2016.1151358
Abstract:This article outlines the pressures on young 'gnawa' musicians embarking on a career in contemporary Morocco. 'Gnawa' stands for a form of ritual and music connected to the slavery of West Africans in Morocco. Being or performing 'gnawa' is not based on descent. The author therefore considers as 'gnawa' those who self-define as such. The influences of the popular music industry provide new options for 'gnawa' musicians. They can choose to engage in the traditional system of apprenticeship or navigate their career outside it. This article outlines the pathway and expectations built into an apprenticeship-based mode of learning and becoming 'gnawa'. It then moves to explore the opportunities and pressures that affect those who chose to sidestep the established system. Young performers who do so adeptly respond to their audiences' desires and can find success. Even so, they struggle for respect from the larger 'gnawa' community. The author examines how these artists strategise their careers between traditional and novel educational systems. They prioritise skills that are important to the popular music industry. This does not preclude opportunities for ritual performance, though it does affect how and where they find work. While some fail due to a poor knowledge of repertoire or a lack of experience, others utilise a nuanced understanding of their changing audience's tastes to animate possession innovatively and effectively. Even when they are not as adept at moving spirits in ritual, they master moving bodies in concerts. Bibliogr., notes, sum. [ASC Leiden abstract]