News, reviews and commentary on afrobeat and related music from Africa, The Caribbean and The Americas

Friday, May 30, 2008

Gnawa Diffusion

By Kenny Eaton

Blending the traditional and the modern is typically a challenge for anybody involved in creative expression. The Algerian-based musical group, Gnawa Diffusion, manages to achieve this combination of old and new by drawing on their Gnawan heritage for musical inspiration while infusing reggae and roots music to create their unique and eclectic sound.

The Gnawan culture of the North African Maghreb implements music into every facet of life, ranging from the most important religious ceremonies to community building call-and-response celebrations. This emphasis on the ubiquity of music has undoubtedly left its mark on Gnawa Diffusion. The group’s latest live album, “F*cking Cowboys”, steps away from the often sterile environment of recording studio albums and gives a glimpse into the group’s heavily participatory live shows.

“F*cking Cowboys” includes the traditional sound of Gnawan music- the ambient, free forms of the Derdeba to the driving drums and percussion sections of the more danceable elements- while combining a modern approach to reggae and electric instruments. Gnawa Diffusion is a great opportunity for listeners to get an introduction to Gnawan music while still establishing a wider accessibility through its reggae and roots infusions. Be sure to check out this album by an incredibly talented group.

Uncivilized World provides an in-depth look at Gnawa Diffusion in their review of the group.

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