“As Spring was ending and the first glimpse of Summer was approaching, a summer breeze blew over me and led me to the Medina, Derb Gnawa.
Where colors and music rhyme to a beautiful melody.
I saw and felt things that go beyond life’s surface, like the mysteries and secrets that elude many seekers, and I was one of them. I approached a Gnawa Maallem named Hassan, and asked him to enlighten me and feed my humble knowledge in Gnawa. As I felt a sort of responsibility and duty to visually represent this mixture of African rituals, spiritual music combining prayers, poetry and dance… Through LES BENJAMINS new collection of clothing [… ]Surrounded by a sacred dimension, Gnawa rituals generate a form of possession with therapeutic virtues(…)
(…)Hassan was a Gnawa omniscient. A genuine, WISE, spiritual and generous man, who shared with me every little and big about Gnawa that is considered as one of the many facets of Moroccan culture and identity. I’ve been truly hypnotized by the beauty of his shop, and how the colors make an alluring kaleidoscopic view. Accessories for Guembri instruments, castanets also known as Qraqebs…. Hand embroidered with quirky beads and cowrie shells that were thought to be one of the world’s oldest currencies, symbolizing oceanic wealth & power, magical power, & good luck, love, creation and manifestation… Couldn’t wait to capture this beauty through my lens and reflect it in the shooting, and use those accessories that Hassan has lent me.
The shooting day has come, I met the models, and we weaved our way through the alleyways of the ancient medina. enjoying balmy winds coming off the coast. The idea was to take photographs capturing moments of a Gnawa band rehearsing their music in the backstreet. We made our way to where Maallem Hassan’s shop is located. I was seeking to share the same energy I’ve received from him with the band. He asked us to try some instruments, and enjoy the rhythm. You’d hear the thrumming of a hajhuj across the road, such a hypnotic sound, and one that has echoed through the mountains and sand dunes of Morocco for centuries. The beats are repetitive yet lively… I used the Gnawa’s accessories that Hassan has borrowed from me, on the models to pop up the spirit on them.
It was a picturesque scene, a perfect capture of what I’ve imagined, the energy was flowing and floating, such joy and happiness were around … We have all felt recharged. This music can heal a heart and feed a soul.
Gnawa is not just a music genre but a SPIRIT.”
Photographer & Creative Direction: Joseph Ouechen @josephouechen
Stylist: Youssef Drissi @uceefelidrissi
Malak Benmalek @dracaena.__
Hakima Elkarmi @hakimaelkarmi
Ayoub Saboul @ayoub_saboul
Adam Moumine @moumineadam1
1st Assistant: Abdelghani Elharti @abdoolgha