site is dedicated to the Gnawa, (or Gnaoua, French spelling)
a mystical brotherhood of musician healers based primarily out
of Morocco, and their recent representation on the Web. From
marginalized subculture to "official" representatives
of Moroccan culture, many Gnawa have undergone a dramatic transition
in the past decade as their music has been "discovered"
by western "world music" lovers. Consequently, the
Web has been a central mean of disseminating information about
My objectives here are two fold. First, I'm interested in providing
a service by gathering together and assessing a large sample
of the myriad sites dedicated to the Gnawa. This idea came to
me while surfing the Web for information about the Gnawa and
finding out that there weren't any portal sites dedicated to
this subject matter. My hope is to facilitate the user's navigation
by offering a representational sample of what the web has to
offer. The sites are presented by subject matter and are annotated.
I would like to provide a critical perspective on the issues
surrounding the representation of the Gnawa on the Web. Today,
refugee populations, exiles, and migrants around the globe have
created what Anthropologist Arjun Appadurai calls the "global
ethnoscape", a condition primarily driven by heightened
intercultural contact, transcultural exchanges and hybrid cultural
How are these exchanges then to be negotiated?
The question of Western hegemony - in this case, the success
of a dominant power to impose their definition of reality and
their view of the world on others, in such a way that it is
accepted as 'common sense' - becomes a central issue when trying
to understand the effects of Globalization. How do local cultures
situate themselves within this transformation? How do they negotiate
their traditions in the face of change? How do they incorporate
the global and still retain control of their own representation,
their own historical narrative, and therefore their own lives?
How do you retain your traditional concept of self while incorporating
a new global self? I
believe the Gnawa offer a telling example of this modern dilema.
Will their representation on the web exemplify old colonial
patterns of representation? Will those modes of representation
which reproduce and reaffirm a Western Hegemony over the rest
of the world be the norm?Or does the Web, with its free form
devoid of gatekeepers, have the capacity to take inter-cultural
communication to a more democratic level? To a place of resitance
where old patterns a subverted and exchanges are made not on
the basis of exploitation but collaboration. In the words of
Hakim Bey, "Collaboration - not appropriation. Translation
- not interpretation. Life - not lifestyle...World Culture is
either true co-creation or it is nothing. Or worse than nothing
- a sin against the holy spirit. There is no exotic other. Planet
earth - love it or leave it."
the most part I have found that the representation of the Gnawa
in cyberspace tends to favor those groups who are turned toward
the West. For example all the Gnawas reprented on the Web have
travelled outside Morocco and the majority of the musical groups
(81%) have collaborated with Western musicians. At the same
time there's an obvious lack of real Gnawa voices (other than
their music) on the Web. This is a trend which has a few notable
exceptions that in some way approach Hakim Bey's ideal. Come
and find out for yourself.