Fangnawa Experience – Fanga/Maelem Abdallah Guinea

I have been lucky enough to have been sat on this album for a couple of weeks now, and my main resulting  concern has been to ensure that the eventual post would do it justice. A bold, ambitious project, the Fangnawa Experience blends traditional Gnawa (North Africa) music with the more established sounds of Afrobeat (West). The primary contributors to the project are Fanga, an Afrobeat collective from France and Moroccan Guembri master Maâlem Abdallah Guinéa.

My initial fears for the LP (which also persisted for the first few listens) was that this would merely be an Afrobeat album with ‘added extras’. However it eventually becomes apparent that the predominant characteristic shared by the two musical styles is the affinity towards repetition. Afrobeat – specifically when performed by Fela – infamously had the ability to last for hours, incorporating extremely subtle changes into a slowly evolving structure. Gnawa on the other hand, is a much more trance based form of repetition. Subsequently this amalgamation of repetitive and detailed structures from opposite ends of Africa may perhaps become the projects strongest asset.

Incidentally, it is definitely apparent which arrangements are ‘led’ by which band. I think I know which I prefer, but that is open to the interpretation of the listener (and in this case, the reader). What is clear though is how challenging it must have been to merge the two contrasting attitudes towards creativity, and how potentially excruciating it must have been to ensure the results felt authentic and not at all fabricated.

There is a video ‘diary’ that was made during the conception and initial performance of the album which has now been made available by Strut in anticipation of the release next week. Whilst giving an insight into the nature of each band’s background, it also covers some of the issues raised above and goes some way towards examining the cultural differences involved.

Whether you end up liking the results or not, this is an album that you should definitely own. ‘Fangnawa Experience’ matures and develops after each listen, and should be considered as an investment more than anything else. And for me, the returns are worth the efforts involved.
Fangnawa Experience
Strut Records
1. Noble Tree
2. Gnawi
3. Kelen
4. Dounya
5. Kononi
6. Wouarri



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