In 1994 Jimmy Page and Robert Plant collaborated on a new musical project for the first time since the death 14 years earlier of Led Zeppelin’s drummer, John Bonham. The reunion resulted from an invitation to appear on MTV’s hit series Unplugged. But Page and Plant wanted to steer clear of nostalgia, so they excluded former Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones from the project and named it Unledded.
The resulting album and DVD feature an assortment of Zeppelin songs that were reinterpreted with the help of an Egyptian ensemble, an Indian vocalist and the London Metropolitan Orchestra, but perhaps the most interesting part of the project was a trio of new songs recorded with local musicians in Marrakesh, Morocco. Those performances, shown here, were the result of a collaboration with traditional musicians of the Gnawa minority, whose sub-Saharan ancestors were brought to Morocco many centuries ago as slaves.
“We’d never met the Gnawa when we went there,” said Plant in a 1994 interview, “but they were very patient, and smiling is a great currency.” Gnawa music is traditionally performed for prayer and healing, and differs from other North African music. “They play a kind of music which is much more akin to the music of the Mississippi Delta than it is to do with Arab music,” Plant said in another interview. “It’s haunting, seductive, and quite alluring.”
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The part on Gnawa is close, but not quite accurate.
Gnawa is the style of music, not the ethnicity of the people playing it. In fact, there is no stipulation that any one type of person can play Gnawa music. That having been said, the style is heavily influenced by the Berber population in Morocco (and throughout North Africa), who were slaves who found their way to freedom by following the ‘nijmat al-janub’ (star of the south).
I’m always interesting in finding out about errors and correcting them, if necessary. But in this case I don’t see your point. The Gnawa are most certainly a people, and Page and Plant were collaborating with a few of them. I wasn’t saying anything about who may or may not play Gnawa music.