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Asmâa Hamzaoui & Bnat Timbouktou

Sun 28 Jul

Asmâa Hamzaoui & Bnat Timbouktou

Asmâa Hamzaoui, the foremost female ambassador of Gnawa music, delivers a contagious brand of evangelistic desert blues. She will be joined by her group, Bnat Timbouktou.

Though women are essential to Gnawa rituals, there have not been many female Gnawa musicians. Asmâa Hamzaoui and the group Bnat Timbouktou are part of a new wave changing this trend.

Hamzaoui was born into a Casablanca family who have lived and breathed Gnawa – her father is a master musician, her mother a dancer. She was taught the guembri as a child, and at an early age, she joined her father’s band on qraqeb and choir, before he encouraged her to start her own group. That became Bnat Timbouktou, the band who in late spring will release L ́bnat the follow up to the critically acclaimed debut album Oulad Ighaba on the Swedish label ajabu! Records.

‘To us, Gnawa stands above all other kinds of music. It’s our childhood. It’s spiritual, healing, and it makes you feel grounded.’

When this group of women performs, the guembri – a plucked lute played in a percussive style – and Asmâa Hamzaoui’s expressive voice are the centrepiece, while the soundscape is filled with the rhythmic percussion of qraqeb, so characteristic of Gnawa music.

‘When I play the guembri, I’m truly in my element. It’s hand-made of wood and goatskin. That makes it alive, in a sense.’

In 2017, Asmâa and the record label ajabu! forged a deeper connection and started recording the critically acclaimed debut album Oulad Lghaba in Casablanca and Stockholm. The album received great response and recognition worldwide and was also nominated for a Songlines Music Award. The follow up and new album L ́bnat will be released worldwide late spring 2024 and focus on the female traditions and spirits within the gnawa culture.

While a traditionalist in many ways, Hamzaoui is also a trailblazer, bringing the gnawa music to places such as the Roskilde Festival, BAM in Barcelona, Kaustinen in Finland and in summer 2024 to Womad. She wants to keep gnawa alive – in this instance, it’s a case of transformation through preservation.

Presented in association with Marsm

This event was originally scheduled to take place as part of Songlines Encounters Festival in May.

This event will last approximately 2 hours, including an interval.

Date:Sun 28 Jul
Start time:7pm (Doors: 6.30pm)
Venue:Hall One
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