Majid Bekkas of Morocco is one of the most dazzling practitioners of modern Gnawa music, adeptly and imaginatively synthesizing its essence with multiple other genres. Collaborations with Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Joachim Kühn, and Klaus Doldinger are just the tip of Bekkas’ musical iceberg: his wide-ranging activity extends from his native Morocco to the blues and Indian music. He’s built a musical bridge from North Africa and Scandinavia, to align the ancestral with the ambient that seems to catch the very spirit of 21st century jazz.
Trance, ritual, mysticism, psychedelia, magic… however one chooses to describe the way that Gnawa music affects people, there can be no denying the fascination for it which reaches right across the world. Over the past two centuries, this music, with its powerful singing, the rattling of the giant castanets and the inescapable groove of the guembri bass lute, has become inseparably linked to Moroccan culture. In the past few decades jazz musicians such as Randy Weston and dub master Bill Laswell have discovered the potency of Gnawa music and brought it to Western ears in new and interesting ways. Glorious improvisation, crisp poly-rhythms, an extraordinary yet natural-seeming collision of electronic flair and spirituality – all this and more is to be found in the music of Majid Bekkas.