Press Release

March 02, 2017

Morocco’s Gnaoua and World Music Festival Celebrates 20th Anniversary with First-ever World Tour and a U.S. Debut Concert at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center on March 16 at 7:30 pm

David Rubenstein Atrium

Press Contact:

Marian Skokan, 212.875.5386;





New York, NY (March 1, 2017)—The world-renowned Gnaoua and World Music Festival of Essaouira, Morocco celebrates its 20th anniversary with a world tour that opens in New York City.  On Thursday, March 16 at 7:30 pm, Maalem (master) Hamid El Kasri and Maalem Abdeslam Alikkane, great artists of gnaoua, make their U.S. debuts, joined by virtuoso drummer Karim Ziad, in the free, official opening concert of the festival, at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center.  The concert also features special guest, Fez-born, and New York City-based gnaoua artist Maalem Hassan Ben Jaafer. The all-star ensemble will take the audience on a journey through this ancient music during a night of trance and tradition.


Admission is FREE for the March 16 Gnaoua World Tour 2017 concert at the David Rubenstein Atrium, Frieda and Roy Furman Stage (Broadway bet. 62nd & 63rd St.)  Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, including program updates, visit


Two additional concerts, plus a lecture-demonstrations, and a discussion, co-presented by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the festival, are scheduled in New York City.  A concert will also take place at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Millennium Stage.


Meera Dugal, Programming Manager of the David Rubenstein Atrium said, “Having followed and presented artists from the growing international and New York City-based Gnaoua music community, we wanted to go to the source and spotlight some of the greatest practitioners of this vibrant, hypnotic music, which has taken its place as a recognized national music of Morocco.  It’s an honor for Lincoln Center to partner with the celebrated Festival Gnaoua which has championed this important music—in its ancient and contemporary expressions—for the past 20 years.”


Neila Tazi, Producer of Festival Gnaoua et des Musiques du Monde d’Essaouira commented, “The Gnaoua Festival has become a major event on the international music scene and has had a significant role over the past 20 years in transforming the Moroccan cultural landscape. We are proud and honored to be launching our first international tour in New York, and more specifically at Lincoln Center.” 


Gnaoua World Tour 2017 is presented in collaboration with the Yerma Gnaoua and The Festival Gnaoua et des Musiques du Monde Essaouira.  The tour is made possible by support from OCP, Groupe TV5MONDE, the Moroccan Embassy in the USA, and Momex. Additional support for New York events provided by the Moroccan National Office of Tourism




On Tuesday, March 14, a panel discussion that includes journalists, ethnomusicologists, and musicians, plus a short performance by New York’s Innov Gnawa, will take place at 6 pm at The New School Jazz Performance Space.  On Wednesday, March 15, a lecture and demonstration with musicians, led by NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston, an early champion of gnaoua who helped introduce the music to western audiences, will take place at Medgar-Evers College at 5 pm.


Two additional concerts will take place in New York City.  On Friday, March 17, at 7 pm the Gnaoua Festival musicians will perform at The New School Theresa Lang Center.  On Sunday, March 19 at 7 pm at Pioneer Works, the group will be joined by guest artists Marcus Strickland, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, and The Juilliard School Chair of Improvisation Studies, Marc Cary, led by Music Director and drummer Will Calhoun.


A complete schedule with details of concerts and events appears below.




Trance-inducing gnaoua music and rituals have been practiced for centuries in Morocco. The music, one of North Africa’s great spiritual and cultural traditions, is played on an array of instruments—from the lute-like, three-string sintir that the maalem (master) uses to call the tune, to the metal qraqeb (castanets) with which the kouyo (chorus) keeps time and pounds out clattering, hypnotic rhythms. The term “gnaoua” also refers to the people from various parts of Africa, spanning Mali to Ghana, who were forcibly taken north as slaves to present-day Morocco beginning in the 12th century and brought their animistic, healing rituals and practices with them. Gnaoua is sung in a number of languages, including Bambara, Fulani, and Sudani. Because of its origins, the music was marginalized and it is only in recent decades that its influence and importance as part of Morocco’s cultural heritage has been recognized and celebrated. Writer and composer Paul Bowles was one of the first to bring the music to the west’s attention in the early 20th century. An album of his recordings of gnaoua was recently released and nominated for a Grammy Award this year. Jamaican-American poet and novelist Claude McKay championed gnaoua music during the Harlem Renaissance, and numerous jazz and blues musicians, most notably Randy Weston, Ornette Coleman, and Pharoah Sanders, along with British rockers Peter Gabriel and Robert Plant, have cited gnaoua as an influence.


Lincoln Center has been instrumental in the rise of a recent burgeoning New York gnaoua music scene by presenting the debuts of artists and groups such as Hoba Hoba Spirit, Gnawa Diffusion, and Ifrikya Spirit as part of its Atrium 360° free concert series at the David Rubenstein Atrium.  The concerts have drawn capacity crowds of fans from Moroccan and North African communities across the city, as well as new audiences discovering gnaoua for the first time.




The festival was founded in 1998 in the Atlantic port town of Essaouira.  Troupes from all over Morocco come to perform and showcase their regional styles on two main stages and several smaller venues. The festival also draws performers from many parts of Africa and around the world. Christian Scott, Kenny Garrett, Marcus Miller, Oumou Sangare, and Baaba Maal are among those who have graced festival stages in recent years.  Jazz giant Randy Weston has been a major ambassador connecting the New York jazz scene and the Gnaoua community since the late 1960s.  He lived in Tangier from 1967 to 1972 and was one of the first American musicians to play at the Gnaoua Festival.  He has introduced, mentored, and recorded with dozens of young gnaoua musicians. Weston has stated, “They call themselves Gnawa people and their music represents one of the strongest spiritual connections I have ever experienced. They have created a powerful culture in Morocco.”


Schedule of Gnaoua World Tour 2017 Concerts and Events


Tuesday, March 14th at 6 pm

The New School Jazz Performance Space, Arnhold Hall, 55 West 13th Street, New York, NY

Marhaba: An Introduction to Moroccan Gnaoua Music


Moderator Meera Dugal, Lincoln Center’s Programming Manager at the David Rubenstein Atrium, and her  co-organizer for the U.S. portion of The Gnaoua World Tour 2017, Samir Langus, musician and member of Innov Gnawa, are joined by panelists Hisham Aidi, an ethnomusicologist and political scientist, journalist and ethnomusicologist Tom Pryor, and Marc Cary, renowned jazz pianist and Chair of Jazz Improvisation at The Juilliard School for an exploration of gnaoua music—its history, connections to jazz, and the important role the festival has played in bringing gnaoua to world-wide attention and popularity.  The program features a brief performance by Innov Gnawa and includes an exhibition of photographs from Gnaoua Festival taken by Sabir El Mouakil. Support for this event comes from the Moroccan National Office of Tourism, who will also provide Moroccan refreshments.  


For more information, visit


Wednesday, March 15 at 5 pm-7pm   

Medgar-Evers College, 1650 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY


Randy Weston

As the concluding program in a five-part residency, visionary jazz pianist and composer Randy Weston discusses varied African influences in his work, focusing on Senegal and Morocco and in particular his exploration of gnaoua music.  He’ll be joined by Maalem Hassan Ben Jaafer, Innov Gnawa, and additional artists, including artists from Senegal.


For more information, visit


Thursday, March 16 at 7:30 pm

David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, Broadway bet. 62nd and 63rd Streets, New York, NY

CONCERT: Atrium 360°

Gnaoua Festival Tour 2017: Maalem Hamid El Kasri + Maalem Abdeslam Alikkane (U.S. debuts) with special guests Karim Ziad and Maalem Hassan Ben Jaafer

Great maalems (masters) and all-stars of the festival trace a musical journey of the ancient music of Gnaoua during a night of trance and tradition. Hamid El Kasri is a leading force in the spread of gnaoua culture across Morocco and around the world. He is a pioneer of the gnaoua fusion tradition, composing new songs and exploring the intersection of gnaoua and other North African music.  Abdeslam Alikkane is Co-Artistic Director of the Gnaoua and World Music Festival and has collaborated with leading jazz and world music artists.  The two maalems are joined by virtuoso Algerian, multi-percussionist Karim Ziad, Co-Artistic Director of the festival, and the Fez-born and New York-based gnaoua master Maalem Hassan Ben Jaafer.


For more information, visit


Friday, March 17 at 7 pm

The New School Theresa Lang Center, Arnhold Hall, 55 West 13th Street, New York, NY


Gnaoua Festival Tour 2017: An Evening of Traditional Gnaoua with Maalem Abdeslam Alikkane

Maalem Abdeslam Alikkane will present an evening of traditional gnaoua highlighting his mastery of the sintir (also called guembri) along with his kouyo (chorus) on vocals and qraqeb (castanets) focusing on the original, ritualistic origins of gnaoua.


For more information, visit


Saturday, March 18 at 6:00 pm

Millennium Stage at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.

Gnaoua Festival Tour 2017: Maalem Hamid El Kasri + Maalem Abdeslam Alikkane + Karim Ziad

with special guests Humayun Khan and Shahin Shahida

Maalems Hamid El Kasri and Abdeslam Alikkane are joined by Afghan singer and composer Humayun Khan and Iranian guitarist Shahin Shahida for an evening of cross-cultural collaboration.

For information, visit


Sunday, March 19 at 7 pm

Pioneer Works, 159 Pioneer Street, Brooklyn, NY


Gnaoua Festival Tour 2017 Band

Will Calhoun, Music Director

featuring Maalem Hamid El Kasri, Maalem Abdeslam Alikkane, and Karim Ziad

with special guests Marcus Strickland, Marc Cary, and Jamaaladeen Tacuma 

Will Calhoun, Grammy Award-winning improvisational hard rock drummer of LIVING COLOUR is music director and producer for this jazz fusion concert featuring acclaimed musicians and the Gnaoua World Tour 2017 band.

TICKETS: $30 advance/ $35 at the door 

For tickets and information, visit




Opened in 2009, David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center is a vibrant public visitor space on Broadway between 62nd and 63rd Streets, open daily with an array of programs and services for local residents and the thousands of people who visit Lincoln Center and the surrounding community every day. It is home to amenities such as a ‘wichcraft café, a staffed Information Desk, the Zucker Box Office TKTS booth offering discount tickets to Broadway and Lincoln Center performances, and free Wi-Fi, and serves as the starting point for Lincoln Center tours. The Atrium hosts year-round free performances presented by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, including a weekly Thursday evening concert series (Atrium 360°), monthly LC Kids Saturday morning family programs, and on-going series, such as VICE Media: Watch & Learn, and ¡VAYA! 63, a Latin music dance party.


Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (LCPA) serves three primary roles: presenter of artistic programming, national leader in arts and education and community engagement, and manager of the Lincoln Center campus. A presenter of more than 3,000 free and ticketed events, performances, tours, and educational activities annually, LCPA offers 16 series, festivals, and programs, including American Songbook, Avery Fisher Career Grants and Artist program, David Rubenstein Atrium programming, Great Performers, The Performing Arts Hall of Fame at Lincoln Center, Lincoln Center at the Movies, Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Awards, Lincoln Center Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Lincoln Center Vera List Art Project, Midsummer Night Swing, Mostly Mozart Festival, White Light Festival, the Emmy Award–winning Live From Lincoln Center, which airs nationally on PBS, and Lincoln Center Education, which is celebrating 40 years enriching the lives of students, educators, and lifelong learners. As manager of the Lincoln Center campus, LCPA provides support and services for the Lincoln Center complex and the 11 resident organizations: The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Juilliard School, Lincoln Center Theater, The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, School of American Ballet, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.


Lincoln Center has become a leading force in using new media and technology to reach and inspire a wider and global audience. Reaching audiences where they are physically and digitally has become a cornerstone of making the performing arts more accessible to New Yorkers and beyond. The reimagination of David Geffen Hall will play an important part in these efforts.


Lincoln Center is committed to providing and improving accessibility for people with disabilities. For information, call the Department of Programs and Services for People with Disabilities at 212.875.5375.




Programming at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center is made possible by Alice and David Rubenstein. Generous endowment support is provided by Stavros Niarchos Foundation and Oak Foundation.


Bank of America is Lead Supporter of Atrium 360° Free Performances.


The discount ticket facility is made possible by Donald and Barbara Zucker.


American Airlines is the Official Airline of Lincoln Center.


Nespresso is the Official Coffee of Lincoln Center.


NewYork-Presbyterian is the Official Hospital of Lincoln Center.


Programs and artists are subject to change.



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