Maalem Hamid El Kasri


The soul music that is gnawa

The guembri is a distinctive instrument, a three-stringed bass lute found most in gnawa, the North African music of former black slaves. In the hands of Hamid El Kasri, the guembri travels the range of emotions, from mournful and melancholic to uplifting and celebrative. And as his fingers pick out their complex melodies, his deep, sonorous voice widens the emotion palette even further. Music that appears on the surface to be simple (Hamid is accompanied only by a handful of singers who also play the krakebs, the castanet-like hand percussion) in fact boasts many layers and hidden depths. While Hamid is a maâlem, a master-musician charged with protecting a particular style, he also regularly shows ambition above and beyond, having collaborated with Austrian jazz legend Joe Zawinul, raï superstar Khaled, and Justin Adams, our favourite guitar slinger for hire. A man at the peak of his powers.

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