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Morocco’s top music festival ends but not without glamour, glitz

The Gnaoua festival has already worked its magic on Essaouira. The city of wind has vibrated on the sound of magical Gnaoua music coming from Moulay El Hassan Place for the first evening of the Gnaoua World Music Festival

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The Gnaoua festival has already worked its magic on Essaouira. The city of wind has vibrated on the sound of magical Gnaoua music coming from Moulay El Hassan Place for the first evening of the Gnaoua World Music Festival.

From June 21 until June 23, the 21st Gnaoua World Music Festival is a musical communion full of emotions, as much for the artists as for the public. This year’s festival has followed the tradition, starting with a colorful opening parade from Maâlems (Gnaoua singers) in Essaouira’s Bab Doukkal.

The ceremony was attended by André Azoulay, adviser to the King and founding president of the Essaouira-

Mogador Association, and Neila Tazi, the event’s producer.

The show kicked off with a mesmerizing encounter between the legendary American jazz fusion band Snarky Puppy and the unbeatable Maâlem Gnaoui Hamid El Kasri, who together delighted the festival-goers with fresh and resounding melodies, the fruit of a four-day artistic residency in Essaouira.

Through exclusive compositions, Snarky Puppy, a collective accustomed to collaborating with artists of all stripes, conquered the music lovers who danced and sang relentlessly to the new rhythms brought to the most famous songs by Maâlem Hamid El Kasri, such as “La Illaha Illa Lah”, “Bania,” or “Assalat Ala Nabi.”

“Being able to play, like tonight, alongside great musicians and spend several days learning new things from them is an incredible opportunity,” said Snarky Puppy’s bassist and composer Michael League to the MAP.

“Gnaoua music has a particular spiritual significance that submerges the body and makes it go into a trance,” the three-time Grammy award winner added.

A new generation of maâlems from Casablanca, made up of Ismael Rahil, Brahim Hamam and Khalid Sansi, were then invited to the mythical scene, located between the beach and the old medina of the port city, to give a warm show, shouting loudly that a Tagnaouite (Gnaoua) youth is there to ensure the succession of this oral heritage.

Following the energetic band, the Moroccan group of fusion rock, hip hop, funk and folklore, Hoba Hoba Spirit took the stage to present their latest 13-track “Kamayanbaghi,” released in January 2018, reflecting the richness and diversity of the festival which always has new music in the program.

This unique musical event in Morocco began in 1998. Its purpose is to connect people with music and to allow listeners to forget life’s reality for a moment and indulge in spirituality.

“Since the birth of the festival, its unique character has given it a place of choice in cultural events that have confirmed to the world that Africa is more than ever a land of dialogue and creation,” said Neila Tazi.

The Gnaoua festival attracts an audience of 300,000 visitors each year. It offers a varied program to celebrate the Gnaoua heritage and to invite the best global jazz artists to come and perform in Essaouira.

At the festival, the singers, called maâlems, begin to chant in Arabic or Gnaoui. The message is usually spiritual.

Culture

Court jails Malian prof for criticizing military junta in new book

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A court sitting in Bamako, Mali, has sentenced a Professor of Economics, Etienne Fakaba Sissoko, to two years in prison, with one year suspended, for criticizing the military junta in a newly published book.

Sissoko’s lawyer, Ibrahim Marhouf Sacko, who announced the verdict of the court in a statement, however, said the legal team plans to appeal the conviction of the renowned economist.

“We are not surprised, even if we said we had faith in the justice system,” Sacko said in a video released on social media

Sissoko, a professor at the University of Bamako, was arraigned on charges of “harming the state’s reputation, defamation, propaganda, agitation and harassment, and spreading misinformation for his 2023 book on government communication during Mali’s transition.”

The “transition” refers to the period the army leaders said they needed to stabilize the country before returning power to civilian rule. They have already missed their first March 2024 deadline and no new date has been set.

Local media reports that the book details the government’s “aggressive” use of “propaganda, agitation, manipulation and even lies” to win over public opinion.

An online review of the book notes that it critically examines the military government’s use of what it terms propaganda, manipulation and even lies to influence public opinion, particularly during the promised transition period leading back to civilian rule.

“But the junta missed their initial deadline of March 2024 for a return to democracy, with no new date set,” the online review said, with Sissoko arguing that his work contained factual evidence and expert analysis.

This is not however, not Sissoko’s first run-in with the authorities. In 2022, the Professor, formerly an advisor to the ousted president, spent months in jail for criticizing the government’s stance on Christmas celebrations and questioning the validity of his academic credentials.

But Sissoko’s lawyer suggests the real trigger for his recent imprisonment was his public commentary on the economic impact of sanctions imposed on Mali by neighbouring West African nations.

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Culture

One-year-old Ghanaian breaks GWR as world’s youngest artist

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A one-year-old Ghanaian, Ace Liam, has broken a Guinness World Record as the youngest male artist.

The infant’s groundbreaking achievement was which was announced by the GWR board at a press conference, revealed that his “journey to the record books began with an ambitious attempt to mimic his mother’s daily activities in her art studio.”

A statement from the GWR said the feat of the child has further showcased the potential young children possess when given the opportunity to explore their abilities.

Guinness World Records recognized Ace Liam following his exhibition in Accra from January 18 to 20, 2024, breaking the 31-year-old record held by Dante Lamb, who achieved the milestone at age three in 2003.

His mother, Chantelle Eghan, also shared her experience with her son, stating:

“He paints when he sees me painting. If I have my setup, he’ll pull his chair and easily come and sit beside me.”

She also described how, even as a six-month-old, Ace began blending and spreading paint on a canvas, and by 11 months, he was intuitively using a paintbrush.

Ghanaian artist, Amarkine Amateifio, while reacting to Ace’s achievement, called on parents across Ghana and Africa to nurture their children’s talents from a young age, highlighting the impact this can have on their future success.

“All children are like that. They come into the world as artists, scientists, and engineers. It is we, the adults, who stop them from maintaining this,” Amateifio said.

“I’ll give all the credit to the home environment and particularly to his mother, Kukua, who created the enabling environment for the gifts this child has brought into this world to flourish.

“At a very early age, all children show their natural inclinations. Children come here to contribute and make the world a better place.

“This Guinness World Record for Liam should act as an inspiration for parents to pay more attention to their children, provide all the resources, and give the child all the necessary tools so that their gift will flourish,” the renowned artist added.

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