At first listen, Northern African Gnawa music has nothing really at all to do with West African Afrobeat and highlife music. The latter styles are related in both style and intent; they are both exuberant, funky, and explicitly political. Gnawa, on the other hand, is mystical desert music, rooted in religious trance rituals. Combining these two styles would seem to be a fool’s errand.
Here's an unexpected collaboration linking a French-based Afrobeat band with a Moroccan maâlem, a master of gnawa – the religious trance music of the descendants of African slaves transported across the Sahara to North Africa. Fanga and Abdallah Guinéa first played together in France last year, and discovered how much they have in common; their lengthy songs are dominated by a hypnotic blend of rhythm and groove, in a fusion in which Afrobeat funk and jazz is combined with gnawa. There are times where the Afrobeat dominates, but it's always driven on by delicate and insistant percussion, while other songs start with gnawa call-and-response vocals and the gimbri lute, before the brass and keyboards join in.