It is with enormous pleasure that I am able to document a group of women playing music in Essaouira. The Haddarates Souiriyattes practice regularly at La Recontre cafe which is next door to where I have resided. The chanting and drumming of Sufi music has certainly been an integral part of my living here. An association led by Latifa Boumazzourh ( who features on the heading photograph on the blog page ), they are certainly a vibrant and important part of local culture.
I had tried on three previous occasions to visit Sidna Blal, the zaouia des Gnawa, but the formidable woman who seemed to live there steadfastly refused all my entreaties to enter. Today I visited with this woman’s son, Youssef, a guimbri player training to achieve Maâlem status like his three uncles Mahmoud, Abdellah and Mokhtar Gania. These are perhaps three of the most famous of all Maâlem from Essaouira.
Youssef’s mother Zaida was a sister to these Maâlem; he said there were originally 7 brothers and 2 sisters in total however all had died except Mohktar and his mother. He said his family had originated from slaves appropriated from Mali.
We waited for his mother at the entrance, the local shopkeeper providing tea. Eventually Zaida Gania arrived and putting out her hand for Youssef to kiss, unlocked the 2 padlocks to allow entry through the heavy door and into the shrine.