With some forty Gnawa musicians currently resident here, Brussels may legitimately be called
the Gnawa capital of Europe.
Now, for the first time after twenty years of living in Belgium,
JOLA brings them together in an album that reflects the world of the Gnawa of Brussels.
The tracks on this album provide a space for young musicians to sit alongside venerable masters
initiating dialogue and responding within extended musical conversations. A Tangiers accent
mingles with the dialect of Fez and a slight ‘Maroxellois’ twang can be heard (Mulay Brahim,
Mulay A?mad). Some musicians render depictions of musical memories of their homeland
(L Bnat, As Samawiyin), others, more firmly entrenched in contemporary practice, span the
distances between the places they cherish with bridges of sound
The structure of the album reflects that of the lila (‘night’, a Gnawa all-night ritual). The listener
accompanies the musicians, step by step, on a spiritual journey of initiation, carried along by the
ostinato notes of the guembri.
In Moroccan Arabic dialect, the ‘JOLA’ (or ‘tour’) is the term for an essential step in a musician’s
initiation to the tagnawit (the ‘way of the Gnawa’). All apprentices follow the teaching of a
specific master but their training is not considered over until they have completed a ‘tour’ of the
Gnawa alone, travelling from town to town to meet other musicians, learn other techniques and
discover other worlds of sound, other ways of thinking. This album takes the listener on a journey
to make the acquaintance of the Gnawa from different cities who have settled in Brussels.