Gnawa musicians from Essaouira

Featured Photograph

The Gnawa currently living in Morocco are descendents of enslaved Africans brought across the desert by caravans crossing the Sahara. Mahmoud Guinea, featured in this photograph, is one of the best Gnawa musicians in Morocco. In this photo he is playing the ginga (large barrel drum), but he is also a master of the guinbri (the plucked lute). Both of these instruments have sub-Saharan ancestry. Gnawa from Essaouira (a city on the Atlantic coast) commonly wear headdresses decorated with cowry shells, sea shells that were once a form of currency in western Africa. The drum is decorated with a hand motif, called a khamsa (meaning five in Arabic), that protects against the evil eye.

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