“This group is hot right now…What did it feel like to be literally rubbing elbows with bandleader Hassan Ben Jaafer, who, before he strapped on his sintir, walloped on a big bass drum slung over his shoulder? Thunderous fun. This music is obviously as adrenalizing to play as it is to be part of on the dance floor.” – New York Music Daily
“Innov Gnawa’s self-titled debut is pure aesthetic relevance” – Thru Magazine
Innov Gnawa is a Grammy Nominated Moroccan folk band, dedicated to exploring Morocco’s venerable gnawa music tradition. Formed in the summer of 2014 by Moroccan expat Samir LanGus, the group is based in New York City and draws on the considerable talents and expertise of Hassan Ben Jaafer, a Maâlem, or master gnawa musician, originally from Fes, Morocco. Under the guidance of Ben Jaafer, Innov has delved deep into the roots and rituals of gnawa music, and made a big splash in NYC, playing some of the city’s most prestigious rooms including Lincoln Center, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bowl, Terminal 5, Celebrate Brooklyn as well around the US at Coachella, Red Rocks Amphitheater, and The Cleveland Museum of Art.
For the uninitiated, gnawa music is the ritual trance music of Morocco’s black communities, originally descended from slaves and soldiers once brought to Morocco from Northern Mali and Mauritania. Often called “The Moroccan Blues”, gnawa music has a raw, hypnotic power that’s fascinated outsiders as diverse as writer/composer Paul Bowles, jazz giant Randy Weston, rock god Jimi Hendrix, and the contemporary artist Bonobo. The music is utterly singular, played on an array of unique instruments — from the lute-like sintir that the Maâlem uses to call the tune, to the metal qarqaba (castinets) with which the kouyos (chorus) keep time and pound out clattering, hypnotic rhythms.
Hailed by Brooklyn Magazine as one of the “5 Bands You Need to Know in Brooklyn’s Arabic Music Scene”, Innov Gnawa make great use of the traditional repertoire by adding their own contemporary spin with African and Latin percussion. Taken as a whole, this exciting new outfit works hard to fuse a centuries old North African tradition with the pulse and attitude of New York City.