The new digital and social media to discover Arabia and the Middle East. Offbeat. Innovative.

Gnawa culture is part of UNESCO’s intangible heritage

An ancient culture born in Morocco, Gnawa, has just been inscribed on UNESCO's intangible heritage of humanity. Focus on what is undeniably more than just a musical genre.

Gnawa culture is a mixture of African rituals, Sufi traditions and, above all, music. Surrounded by a sacred dimension, Gnawa rituals generate a form of possession with therapeutic virtues. Through musical rituals, involving instruments such as the guembri, lute, or krakebs, the males (music masters) guide the listeners to allow them to enter a kind of trance.

A culture of heritage

Originally practiced and transmitted by groups and individuals from slavery and the slave trade, it is now one of the many facets of Moroccan culture and identity, as explained in the nomination file submitted by Morocco.

Fans from all over the world

Gnaoua was popularized by the Gnaoua and World Music Festival, which began in 1997 in the port city of Essaouira, in the south of the country. Before that, the Gnawa brotherhoods were little known or even marginalized. Today, the festival attracts fans from all over the world every year. He has seen great names like Marcus Miller perform with the greatest masters of Gnawa music, through blends with other genres like blues or jazz.

At the same time, many Gnawa artists have conquered the international scene and allowed as many people as possible to get to know this particular genre, such as Aziz Sahmaoui, Gnawa Diffusion, Majid Bekkas, or Nass el Ghiwane.