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

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Wijdan, The Mystery of Gnawa Trance Music

By Kenny Eaton

The Gnawa people hold a unique place in the realm of Africa. Their music possesses medical, spiritual, and transcendent value in their native country of Morroco and has begun to spread to the West. Groups like Gnawa Diffusion have taken this enthralling culture to the masses, inspiring trance and musical possession in previously austere audiences in Europe and North America.

I recently checked out a film documentary called “Wijdan, the Mystery of Gnawa Trance Music” that follows the music and people that make up this incredible culture.

Here is a description from the film’s Myspace:
This film is an intimate portrait of two men who found each other like lost brothers separated by time. Time we now call history. Sibiri, bambarra musician of Mali, and Brahim, gnawa musician from Morroco. This 52 minute documentary is witness to these masters of the supernatural as they transmit secret knowledge to their children. As a testament to a fast changing Africa, we rediscover the meaning of transmission because who knows the color of the chick before it hatches?
I was intrigued by Wijdan. Already being an avid fan of Gnawan music (check out my blog post on Gnawa Diffusion), I was pumped to come across such a professional documentary of this music. The film delves into the leela possession-trance ceremony of the Gnawa and follows the stories of the musicians that stand at the heart of it. For those interested in Gnawan music, this film is extremely informative- explaining the healing process of the leela from the ground up and providing a personal look at the lives of Gnawan performers.

Check out this documentary! It is available in DVD format, so it’s very user-friendly and accessible to the masses. You can check out a preview of the documentary on Youtube:


  1. Any version with English subtitles?

  2. Yes,Wijdan is the first film on the subject to be made in english version. It's a unique testimony for those interested by the trance culture and its transmission. It's well researched but it stays away from the anthropological genre and has a poesy of its own.

    Its filmmakers, Bella Le Nestour and John Allen are french and american. The dvd is distributed by Harmonia Mundi, and is available thru Amazon, Film baby, etc... A must!

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