Gnawa or Gnaoua is a unique music genre which stems from African Islamic spirituals. It traditionally combines poetry with music and dancing and is closely attached to a prayer. As the genre originated in sub-Saharan Africa, the lyrics of Gnawa songs typically touches the sensitive subject of their marginalized past featuring displacement and mistreatment and other daily miseries of the black slaves.
Morocco is the epicentre of Gnawa music, and it annually hosts Gnaoua World Music Festival. Once in a lifetime experience, the festival illustrates the meeting of Arab and sub-Saharan Africa with a spectacular mix of African magic and Islamic rituals. It is held annually in the city of Essaouira, attracting around 500,000 visitors.
Since its first edition in 1998, it has modernized, and today Gnawa musicians tend to fuse the core spiritual music with other genres such as jazz, blues, hip-hop and reggae.
Some of the great musicians who have performed at the festival since then are Trio Joubran with bluesman Justin Adams, Eric Legnini, Toumani Diabaté, KyMani Marley, the National Orchestra of Barbès, Wayne Shorter, Hassan Hakmoun, Adam Rudolf, Will Calhonn, Sussan Deyhim, Yéyé Kanté, Steve Shehan, Adam Rudolph, Yaya Ouattara, Mokhtar Samba, Jamey Haddad, Randy Weston, Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Adam Rudolph, Pharoah Sanders, The Wailers, Keziah Jones, Doudou N'Diaye Rose, Omar Sosa, Paolo Fresu and Ramon Valle.