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3- Guembri Music and Gnawa Spirits: Resilience and Sustainability in a Commodified World - Maisie Sum, University of Waterloo, Conrad Grebel University College

Less than a generation ago it was taboo to utter the word Gnawa and to play the guembri in public. Today, the guembri resounds throughout Morocco and the term Gnawa is a household name. While the instrument and its music have undergone notable changes–symbolic, morphologic, and experiential–it has also remained much the same despite its popularization. Transmission and access; however, have been impacted in significant ways. Traditionally an instrument played by Gnawa conferred with the title of m‘allem (master ritual musician) in the context of a lila––a sacred Gnawa ritual, it is now played by aspiring young musicians without appropriate training or consent, in a variety of contexts, including lila. Drawing primarily on fieldwork in the coastal city of Essaouira, where the sacred and secular intersect and intermingle, this paper examines the ways in which the rampant popularization of guembri music, its commodification, and ensuing appropriation of Gnawa culture have impacted Gnawa traditions, and explores the resilience of hereditary practitioners and their strategies for sustainability.
Conrad Grebel/University of Waterloo
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