The annual Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival is a four day celebration of the mysterious music of the Gnaouas, a mixture of sub-Saharan African, Berber, and Arabic religious songs and rhythms and the product of a mystic tradition with branches as widespread as Haitian voodoo and Brazilian Candomblé.
The Gnaoua invite the best musicians of the genre as well as performers from around the world in jazz, rock, pop and contemporary World music artists to enjoy the experience of an interchange of musical ideas. There are two main outdoor stages, three more in the medina, two for acoustic acts and two for late fusion/electro performances.
Since the first Gnaoua Festival in 1998, the event has grown from about 20,000 to over 200,000 visitors in 2006, including over 10,000 from around the world. The Gnaoua Festival has grown to be one of the largest public festivals in Morocco and it looks set to continue growing in popularity, with both musicians and music-lovers.
More about Gnaoua music...
Starting from a cross-pollination of African magic and Islamic rituals, the Gnaoua brotherhoods form a structured unit around a master. He leads the music and dancing until the participants are in a trance induced by the mesmeric rhythms of the drums, the guenbri and the hand-held garagab). During religious ceremonies, Gnaouas have been known to impale themselves on swords or beat their heads with iron balls without sustaining visible external injury. However, the Essaouira Festival does not feature such extreme performances: the programme focuses on the purely musical elements of Gnaoua tradition and their influence on African-inspired musicians.
If you would like to be in Essaouira for this exciting festival, we have private journeys which can be organised to coincide with the festival or contact our tailor-made team who will be happy to organise a private tour which incorporates the event.
Essaouira Gnaoua Festival is available on the following trips