Breaking Boundaries: Moroccan Master Musician Hind Ennaira Uses Gnaoua Music To Elevate Minds

by Gee NY

In the heart of Essaouira, Morocco, the Gnaoua and World Music Festival in July this year witnessed a remarkable display of talent by a trailblazing artist, Hind Ennaira.

At just 26 years old, Ennaira stands out as one of the few female maâlems, or master musicians, within the Gnaoua community, a group traditionally dominated by male practitioners.

The Gnaoua people, an ethnic group with roots tracing back to the Sahel region, have preserved their musical heritage for centuries, typically passed down from father to son.

Ennaira’s journey challenges this norm, as she navigates the male-dominated realm to emerge as a prominent maâlem in her own right.

In an interview with RFI at the Gnaoua and World Music Festival in Essaouira, Ennaira shed light on the rarity of women maâlems, stating:

“There are very few women maâlems. You can count them on the fingers of one hand.” Traditionally, women in the Gnaoua community have played roles in the lila, the all-night musical rituals, providing support to the male musicians.

Born in Essaouira, Ennaira defied the conventional path and taught herself to play the guembri, a traditional instrument integral to Gnaoua music. Notably, her parents are not part of the Gnaoua community, emphasizing the universal appeal and transcendent nature of Gnaoua music.

“This music is transcendent. Even if people don’t understand the language, it really brings you into its atmosphere. It’s the guembri that does it all,” Ennaira passionately explained.

Her commitment to the music goes beyond cultural boundaries, reflecting a belief that Gnaoua music has the power to resonate with audiences worldwide.

As a female maâlem, Ennaira is breaking down barriers, challenging stereotypes, and contributing to the evolution of Gnaoua music.

Her story highlights the capacity of music to transcend gender and cultural constraints, making waves in the traditionally male-centric domain of master musicianship within the Gnaoua community.

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