Synopses & Reviews
A group of ritual musicians and former slaves brought from sub-Saharan Africa to Morocco, the Gnawa heal those they believe to be possessed, using incense, music, and trance. But their practice is hardly of only local interest: the Gnawa have long participated in the world music market through collaborations with African-American jazz musicians and French recording artists. In this first book in English on Gnawa music and its global reach, author Deborah Kapchan explores how these collaborations transfigure racial and musical identities on both sides of the Atlantic. She also addresses how aesthetic styles associated with the sacred come to inhabit non-sacred contexts, and what new amalgams they produce. Her narrative details the fascinating intrinsic properties of trance, including details of enactment, the role of gesture and the body, and the use of the senses, and how they both construct authentic Gnawa identity and reconstruct historically determined relations of power. Traveling Spirit Masters is a captivating and elucidating demonstration of how and why trance--and indeed all sacred music--is fast becoming a transnational sensation.
The urban centers of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia are home to performance traditions whose practitioners trace them to al-Andalus, or medieval Muslim Spain. According to its devotees, the repertoire was passed down over the centuries from master to disciple. Today it is ubiquitous in the Maghreb and its diaspora, and is held up as a quasi-official classical music that expresses an abiding link to a prestigious precolonial past.and#160; Despite its deep roots, Andalusi music has also profoundly changed in the past one hundred years, and it is now considered a threatened art. In The Lost Paradise, Jonathan Glasser accounts for the longevity of Andalusi musicandrsquo;s revivalist project through ethnographic and archival research carried out in Algeria, Morocco, and France. He treats Andalusi music as a circulatory practice that privileges the transmission of embodied knowledge from master to disciple. The genealogical model embeds Andalusi music in social relations, closely linking it to the cultivation of old urban identities that reach across North Africa and into al-Andalus. At the same time, it is precisely the genealogical model that makes the repertoire so elusive as a social practice, giving rise to both the longstanding claim that some masters withhold valuable songs and the efforts to counteract alleged hoarding via the printed word. By looking to the performative, textual, institutional, and emotive practices surrounding Andalusi music, Glasser evokes a tradition animated by subtle tensions between secrecy and publicness, keeping and giving, embodiment and detachment.