Throwback Thursday: Remembering Hassan Hakmoun’s ‘The Fire Within’

Updated 25 April 2018
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Throwback Thursday: Remembering Hassan Hakmoun’s ‘The Fire Within’

  • 1995’s “The Fire Within” marked a pointed return to his roots
  • In The Fire Within, Hakmoun strips everything back to the same earthy instrumentation his forefathers used for generations

ROTTERDAM: North Africa’s Gnawa music has long held a powerful sway over international ears. In the 1960s, Jimi Hendrix visited Morocco to take lessons with “The King,” Mahmoud Guinia, while “The Traditionalist” Brahim Belkane played with members of Led Zeppelin. Decades later, thousands of curious listeners continue to descend on Essaouira every year for the Festival Gnaoua et Musiques du Monde, which celebrates a 21st edition in June.

Riding the 1980s’ first wave of interest in so-called “world music” — a term most international musicians find structurally hierarchical — Hassan Hakmoun found fame representing his tribal traditions on a global stage and was soon working alongside Western luminaries, including free jazz pioneer Don Cherry. The Moroccan musician’s story is remarkable: The son of a renowned mystic healer, by the age of four Hakmoun was, legend has it, performing alongside snake charmers and fire-breathers on the streets of Marrakech.

But unlike the patchy rock and reggae fusions of Hakmoun’s breakthrough “Trance” (released on Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records two years earlier), 1995’s “The Fire Within” marked a pointed return to his roots. Gone are the electric guitars and trippy dub beats — here Hakmoun strips everything back to the same earthy instrumentation his forefathers used for generations: Hand-claps and clacking hand-cymbals (krakeb) drive these primal grooves.

The sole instrumental melody comes from Hakmoun’s sintir, a three-stringed lute which emits deep, throbbing, syncopated riffs in the spine-shaking lower registers. It’s deeply communal, but Hakmoun is master of ceremonies, leading the stirring call-and-response chants based on Sufi poetry.

These group recordings are balanced by the sparser-still solos. Released from the beat, Hakmoun’s playing further assumes the lilting cadences of human speech. For any audience, “The Fire Within” is a magnificent primer to Gnawa’s immutable musical foundations.


US bishop at royal wedding thought invitation was a prank

Updated 22 May 2018
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US bishop at royal wedding thought invitation was a prank

LONDON: The American bishop whose sermon caused a stir at the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle thought the invitation was a prank.
Rev. Michael Curry told ITV that he thought “somebody was doing an April Fools’ joke on me.”
Curry’s sermon, entitled “The Power of Love,” was one of the most discussed moments during Saturday’s wedding.
But Curry says Tuesday he “had no idea” his speech had caused such a stir and that he sat down and thought — “I hope that was OK.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as the couple are now known, will attend their first royal engagement as a married couple Tuesday at a Buckingham Palace party marking Prince Charles’ 70th birthday.