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Review: Maâllem Mokhtar Gania & Gnawa Sufi group and Djamel Laroussi c’est n’etait pas soufit

Images of the Middle East: Maâllem Mokhtar Gania & Gnawa Sufi and Djamel LaroussiKØBENHAVNS INTERNATIONALE TEATER 2006: Images of the Middle East: Maâllem Mokhtar Gania & Gnawa Sufi group and Djamel Laroussi

Surprise: I keep attending Images of the Middle East music events, but after the disappointment yesterday, my hopes were rather low, when I showed up for the gig.

I arrived a little late, and I was greeted by the great news, that the venue was packed, and they had to turn people away – luckily I already had a ticket.

Djamel Laroussi were already well into their set, but it was easy to see that this was music for dance-floors, played by some highly (understatement) accomplished musicians. Djamel Laroussi plays middle-eastern pop-music, but with a twist, mixing it with different flavours from the musical traditions of the world.

I found it a bit too mainstream, and I doubt any of that their records will find their way to my music collection, but I’d love to see them live again, and I had a big smile on my lip when the gig ended.

But this event was a double header, and we were in for a special treat.

Maâllem Mokhtar Gania & Gnawa Sufi group is traditional music, with deep religious meaning, mixing the traditions of old Africa, with the Arab world, for a truly unique and true type of music, but also dancing.

The tradition is at least thousand years old, but most likely as old as humanity itself, but it’s still fresh. The dancers are more like break-dancers, and the only instruments used were the traditional percussion, drums and this strange Bo Diddley looking bass and, last but not least, the chanting voices.

There was immediately strong response from the audience, some being of North African descend, for instance shouting religious sentences being answered by the members of the group.

I got swept away, and ended dancing in a kind of trance, it was very much like attending a rave, as one of the organisers also pointed out.

The Islamic world is living in an age of awakening, where conservatism is on the march, and the mystic traditions of Islam is under pressure, and there are real fears that this old tradition could be lost.

Long live this important human heritage. It doesn’t get truer than this, music and the love of life in it’s purest, cleanest form. It was difficult to adjust to the rainy and “1st of the month drunk” Copenhagen, after this deep and profound experience.

Tonight there will be a traditional leela-ritual performed. It starts at 9pm, once again at Kulturhus Islands Brygge, and runs for a full 12 hours. I’ll try to get in, even though I can’t be there on time, since I’m attending the Babazula concert@Vega tonight.

Non c’est n’etait pas soufit.

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