Tom Cohen conducting GNAWA! © Ariel Efron
GNAWA!, STAGED INTERPRETATION OF MOROCCAN MYSTIC MUSICAL CEREMONY, COMES TO THE BARBICAN ON FEBRUARY 5 IN CONDUCTOR TOM COHEN AND HIS JERUSALEM ORCHESTRA EAST & WEST’S UK DEBUT EVENING FUSES MOROCCAN TRIBAL TRADITIONS WITH MODERN JAZZ
London’s Barbican Centre is set to host an extraordinary evening of Gnawa, as musicians are brought together from Morocco and across the Levant to present an evening that will sweep audiences up in a whirlwind of sound and colour, of rhythm and magic, of singing and dancing, in a typical mix of the traditional and the innovative from Tom Cohen and his Jerusalem Orchestra East & West.
This mystical and intriguing musical style, whose roots go back to Sidi Belal Ibn Rabah, a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad and the first muezzin, has aroused enormous interest throughout the world in recent years. The ritual structure, the trance experience and the connection of music to the worlds of passion and devotion, make Gnawa one of the hottest styles in the world of music today.
Both conductor and orchestra are making their UK debuts and will co-lead the evening with the head of the ceremonies, Mehdi Nasoli, who will come from Morocco with his traditional gimbiri and the energies of a tribal healer. Also arriving from Morocco will be a group of Koyos musicians who play the Karakb (an ancient percussion instrument) that characterizes these mesmerising ceremonies and will enhance the ritual element of the evening.
They will be joined by Israeli pianist Omri Mor, a frequent collaborator with Nasoli, Cohen and his orchestra. Together these musicians will perform, for the first time ever, special arrangements composed by Cohen of original Gnawa works that honour this wonderful musical tradition while giving it a contemporary Western interpretation.
This concert is the perfect musical calling-card for Cohen and the Jerusalem Orchestra East & West. Cohen founded the Orchestra in 2009 to help bridge the cultural divides in Israel and beyond. The Orchestra employs Jewish and Muslim musicians and has performed in Jerusalem and across the Middle East including in Dubai where their performance last year celebrated the establishment of diplomatic harmony between the UAE and Israel. Some of the musicians are classically trained and some play instruments from across the Levant, connecting the North-African and Middle-Eastern regions in a profound manner.
As Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Orchestra, Cohen arranges their music. His arrangements combine rhythms and melodies from the Levant with the aesthetics and harmony of Western classical music. The result is a cross-cultural, coherent and organic music unlike any other.
Cohen’s ability to synthesise seemingly disparate genres coupled with his musical leadership have seen him establish orchestras in Morocco, Belgium and Canada. His Moroccan orchestra, Symphonyat, also mixes Jewish and Muslim musicians and frequently performs televised open-air concerts to thousands of people.
For information and booking, please visit the Barbican website.