Abdelmajid Bekkas was born and
still lives in Sale, Morocco. He learnt
gnawa music through the teachings
of the master Ba Houmane. Gnawa
appeared in the 16th century. During
the conquest of Sudan, Ahmed El
Mansour Dahbi set up the first
trading and cultural links between
Timbuktu, near Zagora where
Bekkas comes from, and Marrakech.
This secular music is still
considered the "healer of souls" from
Essaouira to Marrakech, easily
understandable when you listen to
the spellbinding sound of Bekkas'
voice, guembri and guitar.
Like a watermark, the mystery of
Africa can be felt in the background,
alongside the blues. Gnawa's intact
purity is the essence of authenticity.
By claiming to be part of Africa, the
mother of the blues and its
numerous offspring such as funk,
Bekkas is placing gnawa in its
primary dimension. By opening the
spectrum (including elements of
contemporary western music),
Bekkas attains a universal status
that is nurtured by the paths he has
travelled. These include: jazz,
alongside pioneers such as Peter
Broetzmann, Sophia Domancich,
Louis Sclavis as well as Ramon
Lopez, Paul Rogers and Paul
Dunmall (his partners in the Sala
Quartet); and world music through
"Diwan" (Camel Zekri) and "Ya
Salam" (Sara Alexander).
Bekkas' openness and ability to
balance modernism and memory
with a rare talent that knows no
compromise, frees the music from
the stamp of time. The memory is
that of pain and wisdom, of songs
that come from the slaves of Africa.