Academic journal article Ethnologies

Gnawa Confusion: The Fusion of Algeria's Favorite French Band

Academic journal article Ethnologies

Gnawa Confusion: The Fusion of Algeria's Favorite French Band

Article excerpt

Gnawa Diffusion was a successful musical group of first- and second-generation North African immigrants that achieved significant fame in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe during the last two decades. Based in France, though from Algeria, their politicized egalitarian message reached the world. Their musical skills, instrumentation, tastes and appeal to youth sounds, sentiments and meanings gave their globalized music a prominent place on the global stage. In their work Gnawa Diffusion addressed a panoply of political issues and sought to represent and reach their audience. Their greatest popularity came at the height and conclusion of the Algerian civil war. By parsing the meanings of the band's name, this paper engages the events and cultures that informed Gnawa Diffusion, exploring the history of the Gnawa, the history of Algeria, and the relationships between France, North Africa and contemporary "French" music. Issues of cultural authenticity and representation are tightly layered within the band's purposes and process of artistic production. Because Gnawa Diffusion was envisioned, organized and led by Amazigh Kateb Yassin, and because the band and media recognized him as the spokesperson and principal author for Gnawa Diffusion, Amazigh's life story and words accompany this paper's arguments and analysis. Through a selective sketch of the various musical consequences of the North African slave trade, the spread of Islam, the colonization of North Africa and the immigration of Algerians to France, we can begin to comprehend how these histories combined and harmonized through Gnawa Diffusion to form the new musical forms of a generation of people who seek to overcome their often divisive cultural heritage. In this case, the intent of the music challenges common notions of authenticity and thereby affirms it.

Gnawa Diffusion est un groupe musical a succes de premiere et de seconde generation d'immigrants d'Afrique du Nord, qui a atteint une importante renommee en Afrique du Nord, au Moyen-Orient et en Europe au cours des deux dernieres decennies. Ses membres sont etablis en France, mais d'origine Algerienne. Leur message politise et egalitaire a atteint le monde entier. L'habilete des musiciens, leurs instrumentations, leurs gouts et le message qu'ils envoient a la jeunesse ont porte leur musique sur la scene mondiale. Dans son travail, Gnawa Diffusion souleve une panoplie de questions politiques et cherche a representer son public. Sa popularite a atteint des sommets au plus fort de la guerre civile algerienne. En analysant l'origine du nora du groupe, ce document retrace les evenements et les cultures qui ont influence Gnawa Diffusion, en explorant l'histoire des Gnaoua, l'histoire de l'Algerie, les relations entre la France et l'Afrique du Nord et la musique contemporaine francaise. Les questions de l'identite culturelle et de la representation sont etroitement superposees aux intentions du groupe et au processus de production artistique. Parce que Gnawa Diffusion a ete pense et concu par Amazigh Kateb Yassine, et parce que ce dernier a ete reconnu comme le porte-parole et le principal auteur de Gnawa Diffusion, sa vie et ses mots accompagnent l'analyse de ce journal. L'etude des consequences de la traite negriere d'Afrique du Nord, de la propaganon de l'islam, de la colonisation de l'Afrique du Nord et de l'immigration algerienne en France nous permet de comprendre comment Gnawa Diffusion a su creer la nouvelle musique d'une generation qui cherche a surmonter les divisions heritees culturellement. Dans ce cas-ci, la musique defie les notions communes d'authenticite, ce qui transparait dans les performances du groupe.

Introduction

In 1993 the band, Gnawa Diffusion, formed and led by Amazigh Kateb Yacine, released its first album, Legitime Difference (Gnawa Diffusion 1993). The band's most recent album, Fucking Cowboys, was released fourteen years later in 2007 (1) (Gnawa Diffusion 2007). …

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