SOUND OF THEORY
musics and musicking are proliferating faster than we
can conceptualize the process of musical/cultural change,
and so there is a good deal of slippage in current discussions
about what to call this contemporary moment." Timothy
Taylor, Global Pop.
Gnawa in Google.
from Marrakech, Essaouira or Casablanca, the Gnawa appear
to me in cyberspace. They live inside thousands of pages
and links exposing the world a culture barely known to
the West just twenty years ago; inside thousands of references
pointing to the wonders of the Digital Age; inside thousands
of opportunities for intercultural communication.
I click on the mp3 download and press play. Syncopated
rhythms, devotional incantations emerge from my computer.
The music bounces against the corners of my office, penetrating
back into the layers of my experiential memory, momentarily
transporting me far away from my scholarly surroundings.
I welcome this contemporary local moment of Global displacement,
abandoning all desire - if be for an instant - to capture
its theoretical significance. After, all what is the essence
of an ideal intercultural communication if not the subversion
of all borders, labels and pre-conceived frameworks and
the emergence of new forms of understanding - new ways
of seeing? Ideally, Globalization might then be understood
not in the act of naming it, but rather in the "slippage",
a Taylor puts it, of its definition. The definition slips
away precisely because it is co-created in a process of
ever-fluctuating cultural exchanges and cultural constructions.
There is the chance then, that any framework, which excludes
the other's point of view, can quickly become an imposition
rather than collaboration. In this case, the naming, the
labeling, the fixing of all meaning, then develops into
a one-way street paved with possible good intentions but
leading straight to insular blindness, cultural hegemony.
like "hybridity" and "post-colonialism"
may seem like fertile ground for academics to understand
this moment in time but they do not take into account
the voices of those who are being theoretically framed.
Even notions of the "subaltern" which explicitly
recognize the impossibility of academic theory to represent
those who live in conditions of subordination brought
about by colonization and other forms of economic, social,
racial, linguistic dominance, are more interpretative
than collaborative. Ranjit Guha who in the 1980's created
the field of Subaltern Studies asks how can academic knowledge
seek to represent the subaltern when that knowledge is
itself implicated in the practices that construct the
subaltern as such? And yet his question is couched in
the obscure vernacular of academia. His words would appear
meaningless to those he seeks to defend from representation
just as my present words might very well be inconsequential
to a Gnawa.
then am I talking to? And what is my purpose?
mp3 music file comes to an end and I'm tempted to listen
to it again. Its short 30-second duration left me somewhat
dissatisfied. In this case I understand the notion of
a "sample". It is meant to entice me into buying
the CD at hand. And yet, even if I bought it, the dissatisfaction
would still linger. There's something missing there that
I can't quite yet comprehend. I play the sample again
but this time the experience is different. I become more
self aware of the artificiality of the exchange as the
moment loses its initial appeal. I begin to question this
interchange in order to make sense of my cyberspace experience.
I begin to theorize
says who are the Gnawa?
"The people of gnawa comes from western Afriqua
[spelling choice of Website] (Guinea, Mali, Soudan). They
were deported to Morrocco as slaves of rich sultans. Their
spiritual leader Sidi Bilal was the first slave set free
by the prophet Mahomet. Over a period of time, the people
of gnawa and the local population mixed to form a brotherhood
with a blend of African and Arabic culture. They practised
a ritual of possession called lila de derdeba. This ritual
staged by the cult masters for the followers evolves round
the playing of music (by the master musicians and the
clairvoyants) resulting in a deeper form of inner communication."
the Gnawa all stars Website
This text above is a fairly standard description of the
Gnawa as found in the web. Site after site traces their
origins as slaves, comments on their spiritual lineage,
defines them as musician healers and mentions the Derdeba
as their primal ritual of possession. Of course some sites
give more in-depth information than others in the form
of detailed descriptions of rituals, etymological interpretations
of the origins of the name Gnawa or biographical insights
for example. And yet, with precious few exceptions, there
is a cut and paste feeling to the information offered
across a majority of the sites sampled in this study.
Where does this information come from in the first place?
Written historical representations of oral cultures are
indeed problematic for they challenge the authority of
the narrative forms the West takes for granted. The popular
written form, with its abstracted emphasis on sequential
linear structures is at first glance wholly inadequate
to represent oral forms, which stress concrete context,
sensual inflections, gestural histrionics, hidden rhetorical
patterns and the presence (or aura) of the speaker as
a transmitter of knowledge. Often in oral communication
what matters is not as much what is being said, but how
it is being said. If an image is said to be worth a thousand
words, the glance itself is surely beyond description.
And yet this is the challenge of inter-cultural communication.
How best to translate and preserve the essence of what
is being said instead of merely interpreting the meaning
of the words? In Ethnography, an answer to this challenge
is known today as ethnopoetics, the art of trying to recreate
intricate patterns of performance. Pioneered by Dell Hymes,
this technique is an attempt to give form to oral rhetorical
strategies used by speakers and draws the reader into
an experiential place forcing him to slow down and imaginatively
hear what was once voiced in the field.
of the few examples in the web of this technique is found
in an essay
written by Chouki El Hamel, entitled Gnawa Moroccan
Blues, a Historical Background. In it, El Hamel offers
us his English translation of the lyrics of a Gnawa song
he took from a book of lyrics written originally in Magrehbi.
The text is presented in short verses, which accentuates
the lyrical patterns used in the song. The first words
are capitalized and there is one single period after the
They brought from the Sudan
The nobles of this country brought us
They brought us to serve them
They brought us to bow to them
They brought us Oh there is no God but God
We believe in God's justice.
try to read it this way:
They brought from the Sudan, the nobles of this country
brought us, they brought us to serve them, they brought
us to bow to them, they brought us. Oh there is no God
but God. We believe in God's justice.
The impact is quite different here. The repetitions seem
clumsy and ineffective taking away from the power of those
perceived patterns in the first example. Chouki's choice
of actually attempting to offer the reader a taste of
how the Gnawa narrate his or her own history is rare indeed.
This example reveals a noticeable pattern in the way the
Gnawa are being represented on the web: there is an obvious
lack of actual Gnawa voices. I'm well aware that the web
is packed with musical samples of Gnawa groups. In concrete
terms, their voices are indeed eerily present. And furthermore,
if the Gnawa do narrate their history though their songs,
one could easily be satisfied with the idea that this
mix is an ideal way to represent them. The seeker visits
a site, reads about them and then listens to a song by
the Gnawa. The problem with this approach is that it presupposes
that if we listen to the Gnawa all the while reading about
them, we will automatically begin to enter their worldview.
It assumes that these two voices are complementary and
sufficient. It's as if the Gnawa were there to supply
the music to an accompanying text about his or her own
culture in order to facilitate in the minds of a Western
public a quick and easily digestible understanding. Viewed
in this framework, the Gnawa do not articulate thoughts
and ideas - they just sing in tongues we do not understand.
The "power" of their music speaks for them.
I'm not sure this is an appropriate framework.
A highly entertaining article written by Greg Burk for
Weekly illustrates this absence. Here's a writer who
was sent to the 2001 Essaouira Gnaoua Festival and writes
a long article without quoting a single Gnaoua. He does
include a photograph:
Guinea, guimbri god
Photo by Pierre-Emmanu
Note the caption which reads "Mahmoud Guinea, guimbri
god". (Guimbri is the musical instrument Mahmoud
Guinea is playing). This is what happens when people ignorant
of Gnawa culture are in charge of representing them. The
Gnawa are Muslims and the pillar of their religion is
the sacred prayer "La ilah ilallah" which means,
"There is no God but Allah". This belief is
an affirmation for Muslims of the unity indivisibility
of all things. The word "god" itself is never
thrown around loosely but is reserved only for addressing
God. I have serious doubts whether a Gnawa would ever
refer him or herself as a "god" of anything
or would want to be characterized as such. This editorial
choice illuminates the difference between "translation"
(which implies collaboration) and "interpretation"
(which implies imposition) when it comes down to representation.
This particular caption falls into the realm of "interpretation".
In doing so, the editors filter the Gnawa through their
western lenses offering their Western readers a ways to
"understand" the Gnawa. In this case, "guimbri
god" is a rock music metaphor often seen in the press
when talking about pop idols (pun intended). In the act
of making the Gnawa "understandable" to Western
audiences, the editors have had to reduce and label them
as "rock stars". This is an interpretation because
it does not take into account how Mahmoud Guinea would
define himself. The presence of his photograph coupled
with the absence of his voice perfectly illustrates a
representational pattern that has a long been popular
in Western representations of Indigenous Cultures and
still apparently endures on the web.
Malinowski and the Birth of Modern Ethnography
the publication of Bronislaw Malinovski's famous study
of the coastal populations of the South Sea Islands, "Argonauts
of the Western Pacific" (1922), the field of cultural
representation was basically in the hands of armchair
anthropologists who dissected and interpreted texts written
in the field by explorers, missionaries, wealthy idle
travelers and colonial officers. For Malinowski these
highly subjective and non-professional writings and their
subsequent analysis by researchers far from the field
represented the antithesis of his scientific ideals. If
until then the role of ethnography had been an attempt
to understand indigenous cultures in order to better manage
them, to better control them, Malinowski's vision was
not only to "understand" in order to create
a feeling of solidarity among men, but also as he writes
in his book's introduction, "Perhaps through realizing
human nature in shape very distant and foreign to us,
we shall have some light shed on our own."
Naturally these lofty and somewhat esoteric ideals needed
to be transformed into a body of undisputed objective
scientific data in order to be given the appropriate recognition
in the corridors of Colonial Academic power. Malinowski
thus introduced a model of representation drawn from scientific
practices, which promised its practitioners the possibility
to transcend their own subjectivity. For Malinowski one
describes behaviors in order to explain, compare and ultimately
theorize them away. The idea that scientific objectivity
gives the writer the authority to interpret the lives
of others is a powerful one, and it's no surprise that
Malinowski's bag of observational tricks is still the
norm today not only in the social sciences but in journalism
A USA TODAY cover story dated January 9, 2002, perfectly
illustrates the scope of this mentality. Titled "Afghanistan,
from inside a burqa.", the article is promoted as
"after being harassed as un uncovered Western woman
while reporting on the war, the writer dons a burqa to
explore the veil's restrictions - and its freedoms."
In it, reporter Vivienne Walt puts on the Islamic dress
and goes out in the streets for one afternoon assuming
that by donning the burqa she can momentarily enter an
Afghani woman's perspective. Malinowski wrote that after
establishing camp in the middle of a village he was able
to enjoy waking up every day to "a day presenting
itself to me more or less as it does to the native."
" I was curious to see the world from within a burqa
writes Vivienne Walt. Would we give the same credence
to an Afgnani reporter who upon visiting the U.S. donned
tight jeans and low cut blouse in order to "experience
the sexual debasement of western women"? I doubt
our cultural biases would allow it. In the end what did
Vivienne Walt see? And what did we learn? Call it instant
knowledge, a way of seeing. Pitch your tent for a couple
of months or put on a burqua for the afternoon, either
way the writers gain objective authority and credibility
by simply "being there" and "donning"
the outer forms they're studying. Just as the natives'
voices are absent from Malinowski's work, so are the Afghani
women in the USA TODAY piece, or the Gnawa on the web
for that matter. This subtle substitution of the native's
worldview for our own reinforces a pattern in our Western
ways of seeing the ethnic other that supports interpretation
rather than translation, appropriation rather than collaboration.
What makes the analysis of these cultural interactions
essential is the realization that they mirror larger economic
and political models that affect millions of people and
consequently the fate of their nations. Here's how an
article about Randall Barnwell, founder of Istikhara
Music Co, a world music label, describes him:
"Several musicians discovered and recorded by Barnwell
have gone on to performing careers. "We like to help
people get meaningful jobs in their craft rather than
see talented artists end up as busboys or taxi drivers,"
he says. "After mining the music of North Africa,
Barnwell turned his attention to the music and storytelling
of Thailand, Burma and Malaysia, moving west in 1996 in
part to be closer to Asia."
Here you have two contradictory messages: in the first
paragraph the writer clearly showcases Barnwell's good
intentions (and I don't doubt them either) while using
the word "mining" in the second paragraph to
explain what he does. Mining has a fairly sordid history
in Africa. It is one of the quintessential examples in
this century of Colonial genocide and economic exploitation.
In retrospect the opposite of what Barnwell's record company
claims to be all about. As I said, I'm not questioning
Barnwell's motives but rather the way the writer describes
Barnwell's relationship to music he records. Third World
culture, just like the raw materials extracted from its
soil are seen as products to be "mined" and
later transformed by Western capital into consumer products.
"There is some irony," writes Timothy Taylor
in his book Global Pop, "in the fact that to "understand"
or "appreciate" world music, it has not only
to be presented by an intermediary but commodified as
well, as if commodification somehow refines world music
into a familiar and intelligible consumable item."
The Gnawa on the web then are indeed primarily presented
as consumable products. Of the 400 pages I sampled using
Google I found only a handful not selling products. These
were governmental, non-governmental and academic sites.
The rest all have some type of product placement firmly
established in their design and intent. I'm not passing
judgment here, but rather observing a fairly obvious trend
in the representation of the Gnawa in the Web. Commerce
and intercultural exchange thus go together and reflect
the ways in which the Web is evolving.
The Gnawa are sold, and sell themselves as musicians.
Given that the Gnawa are identified or identify themselves
as the descendents of slaves I'm aware of the sharp irony
behind my use of the verb "to sell". I'm not
even sure a Gnawa would agree with my interpretation.
Does it matter? It does, and it points to caution when
reading these words or the words of anyone claiming to
present you with the Gnawa. I believe that the key here
is to explore the differences, if any, between passive
and active Gnawa participation, imposition and self- representation.
As we pointed before most of the sites seem to be created
by non-Gnawas. I'm making a supposition here based on
common sense. Many Gnawa are illiterate and access to
digital technology is fairly restricted in Morocco. I
found only two sites created by Gnawas. The first one
de Gnawa de Tanger (Sons of the Gnawa of Tanger) mastered
by Abdallah Bensaid (who lives in Tanger). I don't know
if Mr. Bensaid is a Gnawa, but the way the information
is presented I'm assuming that it was created in collaboration
with the group. There are a lot of photographs and descriptions
of several dances with the their given name and cultural
influence. Though the site is not the best-constructed
site I have seen, it carries with it information that
is found nowhere else on the web. For example in the historical
section there are two ancient black and white postcards
representing the Gnawa. Their inclusion raises the issue
of the visual historial representation of the Gnawa. Are
they to be framed visually by photographs taken by foreigners?
Another site site is Gnawa
Express, mastered by Malem Abdelmajid Demnati. The
site places this group as "performers" of "shows.
Their historical context is given by text which says that,
"many centuries later and after a migration across
Africa there was a development from this origin to choral
songs which seemed liturgical. These kinds of songs are
typical for the GNAWA who belong to the Sufism."
No mention of slavery here but there is mention of Sufism
and migration. The group illustrates the elasticity of
the term Gnawa by presenting itself as "traditional"
(the photos certainly look like it) all the while not
necessarily integrating themselves within a possible tradition
of established brotherhoods. Also, the images on that
site have been laid out in pieces making an appropriation
This absence of Gnawa voices on the Web is even found
in the number of interviews with actual Gnawas. Of the
200 hundred sites I sampled only three presented long
interviews with actual Gnawas. This is how world famous
Hassan Hakmoun describes the Gnawa in an
interview with WNCU FM, 90.7 FM in Raleigh, North
Hassan Hakmoun: Well, the origin of Gnawa music originally
comes from West Africa. Over 500 years ago, slavery brought
people from West Africa to North Africa, which was then
Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and other countries nearby.
When they came, they brought their music with them, which
was called Gnawa. Since these different groups all played
the same type of music, they call themselves the Gnawa
Hakmoun's definition resembles word for word how most
other websites define the Gnawa. Notice though how he
does not define the Gnawa in subjective terms but immediately
goes into an "objective" historical framework
that does not include him. Only near the end of the interview
does he begin using the words "our culture".
So, even a Gnawa effaces himself while addressing a Western
audience. I think this points to the dangers understanding
interviews too literally. We don't learn much about Hassan
Hakmoun but about his strategies of representation.
In another interview, this time with Artsedge, Randy Weston
and Abdella El Gourd of Dar Gnawa about their Kennedy
Center Performance we see a similar issues arise.
Mr. Abdellah El Gourd, can you explain a little bit about
the history of the Gnawa?
(Abdellah El Gourd) Gnawa, they are created in Morocco--they
come from the black Africa in the north and they created
this music called Gnawa. The name Gnawa is Arabic, and
was given to this group. The origin was ancient Egypt,
and they were brought north. It means music that is so
rhythmic that you dance as you've never danced before.
It's like jazz in America--you have different styles for
different cities. So, the music is called Gnawa, and the
people are called Gnawa.
Is this an accurate description just because Abdellah
El Gourd is one of the eldest and most revered Gnawa masters
in Morocco? There are many voices in the Web claiming
to know the origins of the name Gnawa. Is it Berber, meaning
"the one whose language is incomprehensible"?
Is it derived from Guinea the region? Do they come from
Egypt? Sudan? No one really knows and as we enter the
realm of mythmaking and oral traditions, the question
of factuality, in my opinion, becomes moot. What would
be gained by contradicting Abdellah El Gourd? Or Hassan
Hakmoun? In these two interviews they are obviously addressing
an English speaking audience. They're carefully tailoring
their message for our consumption. They're translating
The third interview comes from the Soudani
Project Website. It's an Interview with Maâlem
Goubani of Essaouira by Abdelkabir Namir, published in
the journal Le Matin (6/4/98). Two fascinating "moments"
emerge from this interview. The first one is related to
Maâlem Goubani's telling of his family history:
"My father was named M'Barek and was a nativeof Chnafou
in Sudan from where he was abducted and sold in the Sahara,
while my mother was originally from Bamako in Mali...
Me, I was born in Essaouira in 1923... Since 1985, I have
been Moqadem of the zawia of the Gnawa. In 1987, I was
designated as Moqadem of the taifa of the Gnawa of Essaouira...
The writer then immediately comments: "Indeed, his
official papers, national card of identity and certificate
accorded by the municipality and the competent authorities
of religious affairs confirms what he says." It's
interesting here that his oral history is only valid in
as much as his "official" papers and the "competent
religious authorities" says it is true. The article
finishes in an interesting note. "To finish this
article, I'll offer a concrete example of an authentic
document of interest for ethnographic study," Namir
writes. "During one of our amicable evenings together,
M'allim Hajub took out of his pocket an old photograph
about which he started to comment:
"This photograph was taken about 1930. Here are the
local French authorities in military uniforms... The white
people in Jellabas are the representatives of the different
religious brotherhoods of the city: the black that you
see there, the first on the right, is my father M'Barek.
He's carrying the Gnawa flag."
The writer's last words confirm the power given to this
photographic record. "This invaluable document,"
her writes, "has been preserved by Frederic Damgaard
who understood the immediately the historical value of
this photograph. It is on exhibit today, in the company
of other photographs, taken by Youssef Regragui, depicting
the Gnawa of Essaouira during various occasions."
Where does the need of Mallem Goubani to show this photograph
arise? I can only speculate, but I would be surprised
to find out that he regards his father's photo as proof
of his existence in the way we would. Mallem Goubani is
showing the reporter the photograph because he knows that
it will communicate directly with an audience accustomed
to justifying reality through the "objectivity"
of the image. These three examples of interviews offer
a taste of how the Gnawas attempt to control their representation
by playing into Western modes of representation. Have
we met the limits of what we can learn from the Gnawa?
Is an interview format in which a non-Gnawa asks questions
of a Gnawa an appropriate way to further intercultural
Though we have seen that the representation of the Gnawa
on the Web appears to follow familiar patterns of colonial
representation: we only get to know them through our own
Western lenses and we come to experience them as familiar
consumer products, there is one important aspect of the
Gnawa which seems to put a twist on our preconceived notions:
their musical fusion with other forms.
sight there appears to be three kinds of Gnawas on the
web: the ones who have emigrated and have joined with
other ethnic musicians to form music groups that draw
their inspiration from the Gnawa (such as Gnawa Diffusion),
the ones who have played with Western musicians (such
as Dar Gnawa), and finally the ones who have not played
with Western musicians (such as the group Gnawa Bilal
of Rabat). Of these later ones, all of them have played
in Europe. Therefore we can safely say that all Gnawa
groups represented on the Web have an Occidental connection.
Obviously, in a country with more than 30% unemployment
and a long history of northern migration, a ticket across
the straights of Gibraltar is a sign of great success.
It's important to understand that the Gnawa have existed
on the religious and economic margins of "official"
Moroccan society for centuries. They represented the opposite
of Morocco's tumultuous gaze toward the Occident. They
were backward "Africans", toothless and illiterate
practitioners of a brand of Islam totally at odds with
the strict tenets of Wahibi Sunni Islam, which forbids
singing, dancing, musical instruments and the worship
of Saints and Spirits. The Gnawa have thus begun to attain
a higher status in Moroccan society, especially among
the youth. A great example of this is the Gnaoua Festival
held in Essaouira in June. Now in its fourth year, though
it attracts a wide international audience, the majority
who comes are young Moroccans. At the Festival, the patterns
seen on the Web are duplicated. The Gnawa who perform
with Western or other famous non-Gnawa musicians are given
top billing, while the other Gnawa, the ones who play
"traditional" sets are relegated to smaller
stages. I'm not sure what to make of this. At first sight
it would appear that the only way to truly attract a crowd
is to bring in famous non-Gnawa musicians. Does this send
a message to the rest of the Gnawa that the way to make
it is riding on the coattails of these musicians? Does
it say that "traditional" Gnawa music (which
after all is a fusion of all the cultures that inhabit
Morocco) is less important? Finally it may come down to
what makes a good performance. Once you begin to put the
"traditional" Gnawa on a stage with lights and
sound systems and remove them from their religious context,
maybe they all start looking like one another. The subtleties
might get lost when all the audience is looking for is
a good "performance". At the same time, to perform
at the Festival obviously confers status and allows the
Gnawa to be seen and heard and possibly gain an economic
advantage. We mustn't forget that cultural purity is often
not the luxury of the poor. In his essay, The Music of
the Gnawa of Morocco: a Journey with the Other into the
Elsewhere, the Italian ethnomusicologist Antonio Baldassare
furthers this points:
second reason for optimism, and the more important in
my opinion, comes from an assessment of the economic effects
that World Music has had in the daily lives of the Gnawa.
When I began to spend time with this community more than
twenty years ago, living conditions were harsh as a result
of the transformations taking place in traditional Morocco
vis à vis the modern economy. The figure of the
'abid (the black slave) had practically disappeared from
the houses of the powerful élite, and the Gnawa
found themselves struggling to survive in a society that
was subject to rapid and drastic change. The marketing
of their knowledge has catalyzed a process of transformation
of their ritual into a much valued and paid for therapeutic
practice. In recent years, I could observe the first signs
of what seems to be a reverse tendency. The revenue raised
from overseas tours has contributed to solving the more
pressing problems of basic survival. A direct result of
achieving basic economic stability has been that the Gnawa
are now largely free from the frantic search for a paying
clientele and have returned instead to celebrating their
rites for the prime purpose of consolidating community
ties, through the vigor and inspiration gained from contact
with the spiritual energies of the lila-derdeba."
Gnawa are being transformed by this new Global era just
as we in the West are being transformed by it. A short
essay by Robert Palmer, featured in the Dar Gnawa site
perfectly illustrates this moment in time. In his essay
Palmer talks about the need of the Gnawa not just to communicate
with the North but also to return to their African roots.
This is a fascinating point for it puts in context a chain
of relationships. The North looks toward the Gnawa as
representatives of an "authentic" oral tradition
which might bring them closer to their pre-modern days
just as the Gnawa look toward their origins in Sub-Saharan
Africa' as a source for their search for tradition, authenticity
and connection. This idea demystifies the Gnawa by showing
them to have similar dilemmas as those living in the West.
Displacement and Modernity in this context seem to be
Claims to the "Universal" should always be taken
lightly. In our desire for commonality we tend to generalize
and theorize about our affinities to others, forgetting
that deeper understandings often come from highly subjective
and idiosyncratic lived experiences that resist formality.
Just as we encounter the Gnawa on the Web, we mustn't
forget that these websites are the product of real encounters
between people. Ultimately their significance lies in
the degree to which they reflect the collaborative qualities
of that encounter. As I sit in my office, facing my shimmering
screen and listening to that Gnawa mp3 sample, I try to
connect with the music and enjoy it for what it brings
me in the moment. In some ways, no text on the Web has
yet to surpass the power of streaming music to bring you
closer to what the Gnawa are all about. After all, they're
musicians and why should we ask them to explain themselves?
And yet, we want to know more as we sit far from Marrakech,
Casablanca or Essaouira. We want to find ourselves in
others and search in them for those elements missing in
does anyone type in the word "Gnawa" into "Google"
in the first place? Are we satisfied being tourists, strolling
through Cyberspace without attachments or commitments
in the safety of our digital environment? Or are we ready
to assume the responsibility of actually engaging in the
worldview of the people we encounter? Is it possible to
enjoy Gnawa music without thinking about what it means
to communicate with the spirits? And once we've come to
accept the reality of this spiritual experience what are
we going to do about it? How are we going to be affected
by it? This is the real test of intercultural communication.
As Hakim Bey put it:: "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."
Our responsibility therefore is to understand this moment
in history as an ever-fluctuating process of cultural
exchanges and cultural constructions. Everytime we llog
on the Web we reinforce certain patterns at the detriment
of others. It's important for Westerners to be aware of
the many voices still missing on the Web and at the same
time make a concerted effort to help them reach our digital
shores. It's a process that should benefit all alike,
not just the few Gnawas who have been "discovered"
by the West.