Morocco: Exploring the world of gnawa music

IT ALL STARTED WHEN...

I was trying to book a job in Bergen for Moksha. I got the number to Hassan, who has a really cool concert serie at Café Sanaa in Bergen called Global Beats. I called Hassan, and sent him some of our music. The day after he called me and asked if I wanted to play at a festival in Casablanca as well, with a Moroccan musician. I was a bit shocked, and asked for more information. Hassan sent me a video of Zakaria, and it turned out he was a great gnawa musician. I had been hooked on gnawa music for a couple of years, and secretely had the dream to travel to Morocco to experience the gnawa music and traditions around I t.So when this opportunity came, I asked Marthe Lea to join and we went down to Morocco.  

And we had such a good time! Zakaria is an amazing musician.. Check him out!! 

Gnawa music is an ancient tradition with roots from the people that were taken as slaves from the west of Africa to Morocco. The music is usually performed at Lilas, which are 12-hours night spiritual night sessions leaded by a Maalem (like Zakaria) playing gumbri and singing, accompanied by a group of koyos (playing krakebs, the percussion instrument you see on the video). This is trance music, and it's normal that the people present starts dancing and gets in trance. 

When we were there we practiced together for a couple of days, and played three concerts in Rabat and Casablanca. The musical chemistry between the three of us was very strong from the first moment, and I had very strong music experiences playing with and listening to Zakaria. 

Here are some simple recordings we did: 

Maalem Zakaria: Gumbri and vocal
Marthe Lea: Saxophone and vocal
Oddrun Lilja Jonsdottir: Guitar and vocal
Hassan Jokri: Krakebs and vocal
Youssef Koyo: Krakebs and vocal
Sofian: Percussion

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Raga music in India

When I first started playing with and learning from Ashraf in 2013, we already talked about going to India. Almost three years after the dream finally came true, and we went to Kolkata to play concerts in the cradle of Raga music. I have to admit, going to Kolkata, the cradle of raga music, and performing this ancient tradition in the classical festivals, where the audience know very well how the music should be, playing western electrical guitar, was a huge challenge. The audience was a bit skeptical before the concerts. You can’t come and mess with their music there. But luckily I have the greatest teacher, and Ashraf is also the very finest raga musician I know. So with his help I managed to keep up with him, and after the first concert I felt the warmth and acceptance of the audience. Thank God! And thanks to Ashraf, which I am so grateful and honored to get to learn from and play with. During the month we played six concerts in total, and practiced a lot. I also got to try to play some cricket, and went on a little boat trip on Matha Ganga :D

Moksha in Nepal

In december 2014 we got the chance to go to Nepal and play in Sanskriti’s native city, Kathmandu. We stayed there for two weeks, played six concerts, hung out with her friends and family, and went for a little hike in the mountains. We also got the chance to practice with Sanskriti's uncle Dheeraj Shrestha, a great tabla player, and we performed with Rubin Shrestha, an excellent flute player. Nepal is a beautiful country I really recommend to visit. The nature is amazing, and you find a lot of ancient spiritual places in the country. I will definitely go back one day. 

Here's a video from one of our concerts (my apologies for the interesting sound quality).