Hamid El Kasri… the King of Gnawa Music

Hamid El Kasri is considered the most famous of the “Maallameen” (Masters) of Gnawi art, despite the fact that many pioneers of this art do not recognize him as a pure Gnawi maallam. The reason is probably the fact that his style is very much driven by blends and fusion to modernize this art that remained marginalized for many years, before Essaouira festival brought it to light. It is also likely that this is due to the fact that this artist was born in El Kasar Lakbir and not in Marrakech or Essaouira, which are the two main strongholds of Gnawa art.

Hamid El Kasri grew up in a family that loves Gnawa art. From a young age, he has been immersed in this art, thanks to his grandmother’s husband, originally from Sudan, on one hand, and to his proximity to the Zaouias, on the other hand. Thus, he learned to play guenbri and Krakebs (the main musical instruments in Gnawa music) when he was only 10 years old. And it was during the first editions of the Gnawa festival, rhythms of the world, organized in Essaouira, that he became famous, both nationally and internationally, especially because he always knew how to mix his music with that of the greatest international artists who took part in the various editions of this festival.

Hamid El Kasri has exceptional skills in bringing the public into the magical world of tagnawit. He is the only maallam able to engage the audience in a mysterious way, especially in his live concerts where the gnawa rhythms mix with the scents of incense and where the “mlouks” rise to life to participate in collective rituals that transport them into mystical worlds far from reality, close to the soul.

El Kasri has succeeded in creating a style of his own, where he mixes diverse and varied Gnawi genres. It is this style that made him famous and allowed him to reach international fame, as well as the hearts of his audience who love his way of playing, his melancholy voice that seems to go back to the age of slavery, especially when he plays songs like “Moulay Ahmed”; “Aïcha”; “Youbadi”; “La ilaha illa ALLAH”; “Sandia”; “Lalla Malika”, among other Gnawa songs that have become famous for their magnificent interpretation.

El Kasri disappeared from the art scene after a car accident that almost cost him his life and kept him in bed for many months, before recovering and recently returning to his art and his loving fans.

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