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26-Year-Old Hind Ennaira is Breaking Boundaries as one of the Rare Women Gnaoua Artists in Morocco


The 26-year-old artist was born in Essaouira and taught herself to play the traditional guembri instrument. (Photo: RFI)

Essaouira - Hind Ennaira is one of the rare women maâlems, or master musicians, among the hundred or so Gnaoua artists in Morocco, who usually pass on their musical tradition from father to son.


"There are very few women maâlems. You can count them on the fingers of one hand," Hind Ennaira told the media at the Gnaoua and World Music Festival in Essaouira, Morocco, last month.


"Usually, the women are in the lila [all-night musical rituals] looking after the men who play the music."


The 26-year-old artist was born in Essaouira and taught herself to play the traditional guembri instrument.


Her parents are not part of the Gnaoua, the ethnic group descended from people brought to North Africa from the Sahel region as slaves. Ennaira believes that Gnaoua music goes beyond the community that originated it.


"This music is transcendent. Even if people don't understand the language, it really brings you into its atmosphere. It's the guembri that does it all," she explains.


Gnaoua music is a body of Moroccan religious songs and rhythms. Its well-preserved heritage combines ritual poetry with traditional music and dancing. The music is performed at lila, communal nights of celebration dedicated to prayer and healing guided by the Gnawa maalem, or master musician, and their group of musicians and dancers.


Though many of the influences that formed this music can be traced to West African kingdoms, its traditional practice is concentrated in Morocco.


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