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Festival Gnaoua


The joy of reunion

The first edition of the Gnaoua and World Music Festival in Essaouira happened 25 years ago. The small group of friends who dreamed this project into birth,, never imagined the extent of its future success, but we were always certain of its depth, its essentiality, and its long-term capacity. Each year we worked a little bit harder to ensure funding and to preserve the spirit, because this Festival is much more than any ordinary cultural manifestation. It is a multidimensional project that advocates for the recognition of a marginalised culture, and the renaissance of a city that also seemed to have been forgotten. A project that strives to open culture to all, with a deep understanding of the importance of placing this culture at the heart of our development.

Every year, we asked ourselves how to go further, how to improve, which actions we should undertake to keep this extraordinary Gnaoua culture alive. How we might keep the flame burning for this Festival, whose keywords have always been equality, freedom, and universality. Early on, we imagined the day when our tireless efforts should lead to Gnaoua culture’s inclusion on UNESC O’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Many considered this to be overly optimistic, but over twenty years later, this longed-for inscription became reality in Bogotá, in December 2019. This achievement is an immense source of pride. For the Gnaoua, who lingered far too long in the shadows, for our team who worked so hard, but also for everyone who loves this music and its extraordinary euphoric qualities.

Recognition from UNESC O opens a new era for the Gnaoua and for the Festival. After a long break due to the pandemic, 2023 announces the return of the Festival in its usual format. This shared experience has been difficult, but we stood strong, and now we take this opportunity to appreciate how far we have come and what the future of the Festival will be. Today, we return more determined than ever to continue to innovate and amaze audiences. We firmly believe that this event, whose influence has long extended beyond our shores, is a truly unique example of communion between cultures. For the span of a few days, under the direction of the Gnaoua Maâlems, magic surrounds us, allowing us to believe in a more fraternal world, where cultural barriers vanish under the city’s spell and everyone vibrates in unison, against the fabulous backdrop of old Mogador.

This 24th edition will thus be exceptional in more ways than one. The joy of being reunited with the magnificent, intergenerational Festival audience, a homecoming to Essaouira after last year’s multi-city tour, the celebration of Gnaoua culture in a new context, and a programme rich with never-before-seen fusions and musicians from all corners of the world. The 10th Festival Forum, will address the very topical issues of identity and belonging.

With over forty concerts spread across venues throughout the city, we promise you a gigantic, ongoing celebration devoted to communion, joy and sharing, the values that have always defined this cultural happening that is so uniquely Moroccan, and so deeply rooted in African soil.

We’re so very glad to see you again !


Neila Tazi
Producer of the Gnaoua and World Music Festival

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