University of Gnawa ft. Aziz Sahmaoui
Released 10th October
“There’s not only passion aplenty but a lifetime of curiosity and learning on this debut album. The erudite Sahmaoui has mixed together his own Gnawa culture, his passion for all things rootsy and West African, his love of jazz and a penchant for the gutsy pile-driving rhythms that were ONB’s (Orchestre National de Barbès) signature, into an intelligent coherent whole.” Songlines ****
“Warmly recommended”. fRoots
“The album is an intoxicating affair, visceral and groove-centric yet also nuanced and multilayered.” Allaboutjazz.com
The University of Gnawa is probably the best band you’ve never heard of, although that situation will change on 10th October when they release their debut album produced by Martin Meissonnier who has a CV boasting credits of the stature of Don Cherry, Khaled, Manu Dibango, King Sunny Ade, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Seun Kuti.
The main man, multi-instrumentalist and lead vocalist Aziz Sahmaoui, featured on the first two albums from Orchestre National de Barbès as well as alongside the undeniably great Joe Zawinul in the Zawinul Syndicate for 6 years (Zawinul’s previous includes a stint with Miles Davis recording In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew; and as a founder member of Weather Report). Don’t forget to check out University of Gnawa’s version of Weather Report’s “Black Market”.
Aziz grew up in Marrakesh at the centre of the cultural melting pot of different tribes of Morocco. There he absorbed the traditional music and emerging sounds from the new scene Morocco: Nass el Ghiwane, amaziria music, chaabi and especially the music of the healing Gnawa masters.
With several African musicians in the band, Sahmaoui is taking Gnawa music back to its roots in Guinea or Ghana although most of the musicians in the band are from Senegal most notably guitarist Hervé Samb, Alioune Wade – long-standing bass player for Ismaël Lo, and Cheikh Diallo – keyboards and kora.
University of Gnawa is a great CD as well as a stunning live experience.