The Yerma Gnaoua Association was created in 2009 with the goal of protecting and promoting the intangible heritage of the Gnaoua brotherhood. The association acts to spread awareness of Gnaoui culture in Morocco and throughout the world, and to ensure the perpetuity of its traditions. Yerma Gnaoua undertakes action on a social level as well as in the domain of contemporary creation.
Another pillar of the association’s activity is perpetuating the Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival, a veritable showcase of the Gnaoui art form, and to favour Gnaoui musical creation through artists’ residencies and partnerships with foreign festivals and artists. Today, the Yerma Gnaoua Association is working toward to establish regional representations across the country.
Yerma Gnaoua in action over the past ten years
Since 2009, the submission of documentation on behalf of the Gnaoua maâlem musicians of Morocco at the Ministry of Culture, in order to help obtain artists’ cards and establish health insurance coverage for 20 maâlems through the national confederation of artists.
In 2014, the publication of a Gnaoua anthology, including 9 CD’s and the integral collection of the body of Gnaoua, transcribed in two languages.
Since 2015, the implementation and development of regional strategy to ensure the transmission of maâlems’ skill and technique, and their ability to train and perform with the next generation of Gnaoua.
In 2017, for the 20th anniversary of the Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival, the organisation – in partnership with A3 Communication Agency - of the Gnaoua Festival Tour, in the US and in France. At each destination, exceptional concerts were organised in mythical concert halls such as Le Bataclan in Paris, Lincoln Center in New York, and the Kennedy Center in Washington. The Gnaoua Maâlems met resounding success at every venue, providing thousands of people with the opportunity to discover the magic of Gnaoui culture.
In 2018, the organisation of the “Instrument Library of Africa” exhibition, in partnership with the Afrikayna Association, in the context of the 21st edition of the Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival.
In 2019, contribution to the production of the CD “Mlouk/Festival Gnaoua et musiques du monde”, by OCORA, Radio France. This CD includes 6 titles, representing parts of a traditional lila: Al Ada, then Oulad Bambara and Noukcha, and ending with Mlouks. Interpretive musicians include Asma Hamzaoui and Bnat Tombouctou, Maâlems Saïd Oughassal and Aziz Baqbou and their kouyous. Thanks to this CD, Gnaoua music and the Festival are now part of the world collection of OCORA Radio France (The World of Traditional Music).
In 2018, the Yerma Gnaoua Association entered into affiliation with CGEM (General Confederation of Moroccan Companies), in order to give voice to artists in the context of the business world. Since 2019, Yerma Gnaoua is a member of the Federation of Cultural and Creative Industries, whose mission is to federate sector stakeholders, permit the integration of cultural and creative industries within the new development model in Morocco, strengthen and promote the cultural sector in Morocco through its sub-sectors and occupations, and defend the interests of cultural stakeholders to encourage growth in the sector (legislation, taxation, public and private partnerships, training…).
The inter-governmental commission on intangible cultural heritage as relevant to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has proceeded with the nomination of the “Gnaoua Art” dossier for inclusion in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, on the occasion of the 14th annual meeting of the commission, scheduled for December 9th-14th, 2019, in Bogotá.