10 Things to Know about Gnawa Music

1.The term “Gnawa” (also spelled “Gnaoua”) refers to both a people and a style of music.
There are many theories on where the word “Gnawa” comes from, but it most likely stems from the Berber word “aginaw,” which means someone that you can’t understand. There are multiple branches of Gnawa music—at least three or four—within Morocco, and even more outside of Morocco. You hear that musical style all over the north of Africa—in Algeria, it’s called Diwan, and in Tunisia, it’s called Stambouli. It’s all kind of the same manifestation of centuries of the slave trade and slaves from northern Mali and Mauritania being bought and sold all throughout that region and creating music from their history and ancestors. So Gnawa is really an all-encompassing term for the culture that resulted from the slave trade in that area.

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