Join us in The Red Theater for a celebration of global sounds with leading international bands.

Opening night features

  • Aziz Sahmaoui & The University of Gnawa (Morocco / France)
  • Noura Mint Seymali. (Maritania)

The Maghreb meets West Africa in University of Gnawa’s intoxicating hybrid with unstoppable choruses and emotional flights of improvisation. Seymali’s hypnotic grooves meld traditional Mauritanian instruments with electrified psychedelic rock.

Aziz Sahmaoui brings together his musical passions — gnawa, oud, rock and jazz— in a globe-trotting collaboration with high-flying Senegalese experimentalists with special guest Naissam Jalal. Led by composer, poet, and guembri player Samhaoui, a co-founding member of the influential Orchestre National de Barbes (ONB) and alumnus of Joe Zawinul’s Syndicate, University of Gnawa brings together gnawa roots, unstoppable choruses and emotional flights of improvisation, supporting richly layered poetic lyrics. Aziz’s bewitching voice, adept at alternating between the inflections of a bluesman, a muezzin, and a crooner, pulls us inexorably into his poetic universe where any bitterness of the day to day melts away into a jubilatory energy.

“The erudite Sahmaoui has mixed together his own Gnawa culture, his passion for all things rootsy and West African, his love for jazz and a penchant for the gutsy pile-driving rhythms that were ONB’s signature, into an intelligent coherent whole…. Sahmaoui precise and powerful voice hollers out messages of honesty and peace. With the help of a tight backing band of premier-league Moroccan and Senegalese musicians, manages to achieve that balance of raw power and subtle sophistication…Sahmaoui himself exudes a creativity, passion and experience” – Andy Morgan, Songlines

Noura Mint Seymali is the Islamic Republic of Mauritania’s defining artist on the international stage. Drawing deep on the timeless repertoire of the Moorish griots, a hereditary class of musical poet / historians, her band conjures. “a full blown sandstorm of hypnotic grooves, melding traditional Mauritanian instruments, like the ardine and tidinite, within an electrified psychedelic rock band.” – The Quietus (UK).

Its debut album – TZENNI (Glitterbeat, 2014) – was hailed as “arguably the best psych / blues album of the year” by Vice/Noisey. Expanding a sound born of Arab and Sub-Saharan roots, Noura Mint Seymali bends the arc of Moorish musical tradition to fit our contemporary moment, as described by NPR: “the arrival of Mauritanian vocalist Noura Mint Seymali in front of Western audiences feels like the start of a new era.” Recognized at African Union’s first-ever AFRIMA awards, Noura Mint Seymali was named “Best Female Artist from North Africa.”

“Seymali and her group are impeccable, a riot of traditional Mauritanian music and psychedelic
bq. rock…some of the most life-affirming scenes to ever grace a festival of experimental music” – The Wire