Gnawa music (Ar. ڭْناوة or كْناوة) is a body of Moroccan and sub-Saharan African Islamic religious songs and rhythms. Its well-preserved heritage combines ritual poetry with traditional music and dancing. The music is performed at lila, communal nights of celebration dedicated to prayer and healing guided by the Gnawa maalem, or master musician, and their group of musicians and dancers. Though many of the influences that formed this music can be traced to sub-Saharan West-Africa, its traditional practice is concentrated in Morocco. Gnawa music has spread to many other countries in Africa and Europe, such as France.
In a Gnawa song, one phrase or a few lines are repeated over and over, so the song may last a long time. In fact, a song may last several hours non-stop. However, what seems to the uninitiated to be one long song is actually a series of chants describing the various spirits (in Arabic mlouk (sing. melk)), so what seems to be a 20-minute piece may be a whole series of pieces – a suite for Sidi Moussa, Sidi Hamou, Sidi Mimoun or others. Because they are suited for adepts in a state of trance, they go on and on, and have the effect of provoking a trance from different angles.