Sahara rock stirs up sandstorm

AL QANTARA – MAJID BEKKAS (IGLOO RECORDS)

Cool kids like rock music. If they carry their enthusiasm into adulthood, they’ll discover the best rock bands have blues roots. Some will link American blues with its African – usually Malian – ancestry, such as Ali Farka Touré, or desert rockers Tinariwen and Tamikrest.

How did the Sahara give birth to such luscious creativity?

Moroccan instrumentalist Majid Bekkas would argue that the answer lies in a hypnotic trance. His latest album, Al Qantara, explores gnawa music, a pre-Islamic African way of healing and driving out evil through low-toned, strangely evocative rhythms. His guembri – a three-stringed lute – gives a glimpse of Saharan music before the desert rockers plugged in their electric guitars, a time when life was as harsh as the landscape.

None of the gnawa power has been lost in time. The rhythms are dizzying, and the percussion is frantic and unforgiving. A bridge to the West is made by Belgian flautist Manuel Hermia, whose raw breaths seem to whip up the energy of the album into a sandstorm.


Moroccan Khalid Kouhen plays tabla drums on some tracks, extending gnawa’s reach to India. There is something sacred here, and we should be grateful to Majid Bekkas for introducing gnawa to the world. 

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Clyde Macfarlane
Music and travel writer @GuardianTravel, @SonglinesMag, @MailandGuardian and @TheQuietus. New poetry book out: Across New Zealand in 140 Hitches Clyde Macfarlane has over 342 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

The new queens of Afrobeat

In their respective new offerings, Nneka and Ibeyi present a beautiful fusion of styles reminiscent of the legendary Fela Kuti.

Freedom’s voice rings out from a Malawi jail

Women and men in Malawi’s maximum-security, Zomba Central Prison, who call themselves Zomba Prison Project, are telling their stories through music.

Finding Fela: A Celebration of Fela Kuti’s life

A doccie about legendary musician Fela Kuti's life and politically-charged music has just been released.
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Entrepreneurs strike Covid gold

Some enterprising people found ways for their ventures to survive the strictest lockdown levels

Ithala backs its embattled chairperson

Roshan Morar is being investigated in connection with KwaZulu-Natal education department backpack sanitiser tender worth R4-million and a batch of face masks that vanished

Inside the illicit trade in West Africa’s oldest artworks

Nok terracottas are proof that an ancient civilisation once existed in Nigeria. Now they are at the centre of a multimillion-dollar, globe-spanning underground industry — and once again, Nigeria is losing out

Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza: Liberating Africa from land of liberté

The cultural and political activist is on a quest to bring looted treasures back home
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday