Creating a common musical language
When they step into the stage at The Silver Building, guitarist Justin Adams and gimbri-player Mohamed Errebbaa will be treating the audience to something of a world first. Having met only last year – and bearing in mind the limitations caused by Covid – they’ve only performed one live gig to date, and that was as a four piece.
“This is the first time we’ll be performing live as a duo,’ says Adams. ‘Personally I love the sound of the [three-stringed guitar] gimbri without the noise of the percussion, so this concert will be a kind of experimental gig with just the two of us.”
And what an experiment it will be. One of the UK’s most original guitarists, Adams has performed around the world with his band and with the likes of Robert Plant, Jah Wobble and Sinead O’Connor. Errebbaa, his musical partner for this concert, is a master musician from Morocco – a specialist in Gnawa music.
The two were introduced by a friend of Adams’, who knew of his love for Gnawa. The guitarist had first encountered it in Morocco in the late 80s, and was instantly hooked. He’d long had an interest in north African and Middle Eastern music due to a childhood spent in various north African countries, where his father was a diplomat.
“Last year a friend of mine told me there was a Gnawa musician living not far away in Bristol,” says Adams. “I got on the phone immediately.”
The two met up when Covid restrictions were eased and quickly found a common musical language.
“I'd been listening to Gnawa music a lot, trying to learn bits, and I've been out to Morocco, collaborating with a really great Moroccan Gnawa player, but it's very rare to have somebody who's really from the tradition here in Britain, who speaks English,” enthuses Adams, musing: “I suppose it's also fairly rare to find an English guitarist who's actually spent a bit of time studying the rhythms.”
At this concert they’ll be performing a mix of Gnawa music and the parts of Adams’ back catalogue that lean closely towards the same sorts of sounds.
“Gnawa has a real groove to it, so for someone like me who’s always loved dub and the blues, but also an Arabic sound, it’s wonderful,” says Adams.
This concert in the Royal Docks might be the first of its kind, but it sounds like it won’t be the last.
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