Fascinated since childhood with the arts and lore of the Gnawa, a tribal people in southern Morocco believed to have migrated from sub-Saharan Sudan centuries ago, Hassan Hakmoun has turned himself into a master of their music. Born and raised in Marrakech, Hakmoun first encountered Gnawa entertainers in the town square, leaping high in the air and moving their heads frenetically to the accompaniment of drums and metal castanets. Not long afterward he became immersed in their songs, dances, and healing rituals. He learned how to play their side drums (thel), castanets (qaraqeb), and lute (sintir) while traveling through Morocco as a teenager in the late 70s. Upon returning to Marrakech, Hakmoun was almost a Gnawi himself, working as an entertainer and the lead musician in elaborate, all-night rituals held to purge evil spirits and befriend kind ones. Most Gnawa songs contain references to western Sudan and to the privations of exile and slavery; they’re noted for syncopated rhythms and the balanced structure of their pentatonic melodies. Hakmoun has started to expand his repertoire by presenting Arab and Berber pop tunes in Gnawa style. In 1987 Hakmoun made a well-received U.S. debut, resulting in collaborations with Peter Gabriel, David Sanborn, and other mavens of the fusion movement. Hakmoun’s own newly reissued CD on the Music of the World label, The Fire Within, offers an excellent introduction to Gnawa ritual music, which he’ll perform here in shorter form than is required in the ceremonies. Joining him will be Adbel Outanine (on oud, percussion, and vocals), Abdul Hak Dahmad (on a stringed instrument called the qarqaba, vocals, and dance), and Ron McBee (on percussion). Friday, 7:30 PM, Bennett Hall, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 728-4642.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Hassan Hakmoun.