Innov Gnawa is a young musical collective dedicated to exploring Morocco’s venerable gnawa music tradition in the heart of New York City. Formed in the summer of 2014 by Moroccan expat Samir LanGus, the group draws on the considerable talents and expertise of Hassan Ben Jaafer, a Maâlem, or master gnawa musician, originally from Fes, Morocco. Under the guidance of Ben Jaafer, Innov has delved deep into the roots and rituals of gnawa music, and made a big splash in NYC, playing some of the city’s most prestigious rooms including Lincoln Center, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bowl, Terminal 5, Celebrate Brooklyn as well around the US at Coachella, Red Rocks Amphitheater, and The Cleveland Museum of Art.
For the uninitiated, gnawa music is the ritual trance music of Morocco’s black communities, originally descended from slaves and soldiers once brought to Morocco from Northern Mali and Mauritania. Often called “The Moroccan Blues”, gnawa music has a raw, hypnotic power that’s fascinated outsiders as diverse as writer/composer Paul Bowles, jazz giant Randy Weston, rock god Jimi Hendrix, and the contemporary artist Bonobo. The music is utterly singular, played on an array of unique instruments — from the lute-like sintir that the Maâlem uses to call the tune, to the metal qarqaba (castinets) with which the kouyos (chorus) keep time and pound out clattering, hypnotic rhythms.
Hailed by Brooklyn Magazine as one of the “5 Bands You Need to Know in Brooklyn’s Arabic Music Scene”, Innov Gnawa make great use of the traditional repertoire by adding their own contemporary spin with African and Latin percussion. Taken as a whole, this exciting new outfit works hard to fuse a centuries old North African tradition with the pulse and attitude of New York City.
Harp vs. Harp is an exciting duo featuring the unusual combination of harp and harmonica. Since his move to the United States in 1994, Edmar Castaneda has quite literally taken the world stage by storm with the sheer force of his virtuosic command of the harp—revolutionizing the way audiences and critics alike consider an instrument commonly relegated to the “unusual category.” At the same time, Gregoire Maret is one of the most sought after harmonica players in the world, often compared to legends Toots Thielemans and Stevie Wonder, he has been asked to play with an incredible number of famous musicians including Youssn’Dour, Me' Shell Ndegeocello, Pete Seeger, David Sanborn, and George Benson. The interplay between Edmar and Gregoire on Harp vs. Harp is nearly telepathic. Edmar’s Columbian roots combined with Gregoire’s Afro-Swiss classic training makes for a totally exciting set of music!