For decades, Hassan Hakmoun has been the foremost ambassador of the Gnawa people and their incredible musical and spiritual traditions. A native of Marrakech, Hakmoun grew up in a Gnawa family, whose ancestors were brought from West Africa to North Africa as slaves in the 15th and 16th centuries. At the center of their spiritual practice is music and dance that fuses Islamic mysticism with sub-Saharan African traditions, particularly in all-night trance rituals meant to praise God and heal bodies and minds.
Hakmoun, whose mother was a famous healer in Marrakech, began singing, dancing and playing percussion as a young child, and he soon settled on the three-stringed sintir lute as his main instrument. Over the years, Hakmoun has incorporated myriad other strands such as jazz and rock (and worked with such collaborators as Don Cherry and Peter Gabriel), but at its heart his music remains warm, open and utterly joyful. In this globalFEST set, Hakmoun and the other six members of his band layered soulful vocals, complex African polyrhythms, jazz-tinged synth and a deep rock groove into a satisfying whole.