Even though women are essential to Gnawa rituals, there has not been many female Gnawa musicians. Asmâa Hamzaoui and the group Bnat Timboktou are part of a new wave who changes this trend.
Hamzaoui was born into a Casablanca family who has lived and breathed Gnawa – her father is a master musician, her mother a dancer. She was taught the guembri as a child, and at an early age, she joined her fathers band on qraqeb and choir, before he encouraged her to start her own group. That became Bnat Timboktou, the band who will release their first album “Oulad Ighaba” on the Swedish label Ajabu Records this summer. Bnat Timboktou performs the “black suite” on the album – according to her, it’s the ritual that gets closest to the core of Gnawa culture. While a traditionalist in many ways, Hamzaoui is also a trailblazer, bringing the gnawa music to places such as the Roskilde Festival, Lincoln Center in New York and Kaustinen in Finland the upcoming year. She wants to keep gnawa alive – in this instance, it’s a case of transformation through preservation.