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The Project

La Caravane du Maghreb (Gnawa)

Music is alive. It carries memories.  It recounts stories of place, of cultural origins and of communities - their every day lives, their rituals, their ceremonies.  It manifests in the songs of 'La Caravan du Maghreb' , Gnawa ritual music and Andalusian folk music recorded by the band for the 'Heimatlieder'  project.  Youssef Belbachir (Vocals) and Karim Souheil (Piano/Guitar) have been playing Moroccan music in Berlin since more than a decade. Last year Miloud Messabih joined as an Accordionist/Percussionist, as well as David Beck on Gimbri and Oud , two instruments that are an integral part of traditional Moroccan music.

'Saadi Belwali Jani' is a devotion to the Holy Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, a famous Sufi Islamic scholar and founder of the Order of Qardia - the Dervish order. The lyrics sing of the prophets and in the chorus expresses the hope for healing through al-Qādir - and God. "I'm happy today because the Holy Mullah Abd al-Qādir comes to see me with the green turban"  This song is very famous in Morocco and has been performed in various versions. Youssef Belbachir heard it for the first time several years ago when he was introduced to Gnawa music. He was so impressed by the Gnawa sound that he took Saadi Belwali Jani practically everywhere with him - including Berlin! With Karim Souheil he came up with the idea of ​​augmenting the band's sound with a traditional guitar interpretation.


Heide "E klî vält Fijeltchen"


The Gnawa are an ethnic minority in Morocco. Their ancestors were slaves from various West African countries, south of the Sahara, who were forcibly abducted and sold. Their music often refers to Morocco, their country of origin, thousands of miles away. It is music of the prisoner, of forced hardship and loss of home through violent means, and of the challenges of integration into a new social structure. The Gnawa accepted Islam and adjoined with their animistic spirit worship. In their necromantic rituals, the music is the supporting element.  Even today, these musical trances and healing ceremonies still take place in the family circle. The three main instruments T'Bal (Barrel drum), Gimbri (Three-sided long-necked lute) and Qarqaba (Metal castanets, originally slave chains) generate a strongly stressed rhythm of music, and the vocal is the call of the spirits and prophets.
Up until ten years ago, Gnawa music attracted the public only on Islamic bank holidays, when the descendants of the slaves went from house to house making music, asking for alms.  Now, increasingly, there are organized stage concerts - including from the jazz musician Karim Ziad.  Gnawa music modernized with the addition of drums and keyboards, and thus this former slave music has become more exoteric and widespread. The center of Gnawa music today is still the region of it's origin - the city of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast, where a large festival is held annually.

'Ana Dini Din Allah' comes from the Arabic-Andalusian repertoire. It is a love song from northern Morocco about the rare beauty of the beloved. The chorus asks for God's blessing and power of faith. Youssef Belbachir and Karim Souheil know the song since their childhood. It is very popular in Morocco and is played in multiple versions. The oud, a lute with five double strings and a sixth bass string, sits at the center of Ana Dini Din Allah, carrying the melody. The instrument has a cultural space in many Moroccan homes, much like the the guitar has in Germany. The oud is also the main instrument of Arab-Andalusian music.
The musical style of Gnawa evolved between the 9th and 15th centuries on the Iberian Peninsula and is a mixture of Arabic, Western and Jewish influences. The expulsion of the Muslims and Sephardic Jews after the Reconquista, the "reconquest" of Morocco by the Christians led to Gnawa spreading out to today's Spain, and to the countries of the Maghreb