A Franco-Moroccan trio opened this year’s Gnaoua and world music festival in Essaouira.
French jazz violinist Didier Lockwood took to the stage alongside Gnaoua Maâlem Hassan Boussou and ribab virtuoso Foulane Bouhssine.
Famous for his desire to confront world cultures in music, Lockwood took on the challenge with enthusiasm. But he was the first to admit that it took him a while to get into the groove of Gnaoua’s complex rhythms.
“From the moment you get it, you play along and you enter a kind of hypnotic state, and it’s amazing because you don’t want it to ever stop,” Lockwood said. “Music at that level has a euphoric effect, it’s exhilarating.”
“That’s why I love Africa, because in Africa there’s this instinctive feeling about music, which is something that has completely disappeared in Europe. It’s all about premonition and synchronicity, you know what I mean, it’s really interesting,” he added.
At the age of 40, Hassan Boussou is still considered a young Maâlem or master. His father before him was a famous Gnaoua musician. Boussou lives and works in France and, like Lockwood, is known for collaborating with musicians from different backgrounds including rap and hip hop. His goal is to reinvent traditional gnaoua, but with a twist.
“Gnaoua music is always open to other musical genres from around the world. It’s compatible with different kinds of music, we’re always able to adapt, create and especially, to improvise,” said Boussou.
After the Gnaoua session, Didier Lockwood returned to the stage with his own trio treating the crowd to a wide repertoire ranging from jazz to his world-famous funk improvisations.
The son of a violinist, Lockwood is a classically trained musician who discovered the freedom of improvisation at the age of 17, when he moved on to progressive rock before turning to jazz.
Essaouira’s festival, now in its 17th year, has become a fixture on the global music festival calendar. Focusing on traditional Gnaoua, it also includes jazz, pop, rock, and contemporary music with artists from around the world.