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Gnaoua in Essaouira: a fusion of world talent

Gnaoua in Essaouira: a fusion of world talent
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Carribean pianist Mario Canonge delighted crowds on the second day of the Gnaoua Music Festival in Essaouira.

Born on the French island of Martinique, Canonge started playing the piano at the age of 14 and studied music in Paris.

The jazz virtuoso is known for his musical versatility.

“Beyond jazz, I am interested in all kinds of musical genres. I am from the Caribbean after all, and even though I love jazz music, my music will always be Caribbean music, which I will always defend,” said Canonge.

After playing on stage with his own band, Mario Canonge joined Morocco’s Gnaoua master Mohamed Kouyou for an exciting fusion session.

Kouyou earned the coveted title of Maâlem or Master musician when he was just 23 years old and has played with jazz legends like saxophonists Wayne Shorter and Donald Harrison.

“We wanted to live up to the audience’s expectations…. and thank god, we did. Thank god for this wonderful fusion between Moroccan Gnaoua and World Music,” said Mohamed Kouyou.

“The idea was to take things slowly, we didn’t want to rush things and take away the meaning of this music. So what we tried to do, what I tried to do, was to get into the music slowly until we reached a kind of harmony and were able to communicate,” added Canonge.

Another big name at this year’s festival was Bassékou Kouyaté, one of Mali’s most iconic musicians and griots or storytellers. Kouyaté has established himself as a master of the ngoni, a rudimentary form of lute that dates back more than 1000 years and is central to Mali’s storytelling culture. Griots play an important role in West African society acting as conflict mediators and political advisers.

“There are more than 300 different ethnic groups in Mali, each of them with their own music, culture and language,” said Kouyaté. “That’s why I always say that if they all want a piece of Mali, the country will end up divided up into 300 different pieces, and each of them will be left with just a hundred square metres. It would be better if we could find a solution for our country. I’ll always continue to try and raise awareness, continue singing for peace in Africa.”

Kouyaté also fronts his own band, Ngoni Ba, Mali’s first ngoni quartet, with his wife Amy Sacko. The artist will be stopping off in various European capitals on tour this summer .