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Live / stage review

"A real sense of celebration": Mohamed Errebbaa & Justin Adams at TalkingGigs

Guitarist Justin Adams and Moroccan Gnawa master musician Mohamed Errebbaa lift the spirits of Firth Hall audience.

10 November 2022 at
Mohamed Errebbaa Justin Adams at Talking Gigs

Lifting Spirits was the perfect name for this latest TalkingGigs event, held in collaboration with Sheffield University Concerts. Justin Adams, a guitarist known for his collaborations and interest in North African music, joined forces on stage with Moroccan Gnawa master musician Mohamed Errebbaa, who were both interviewed by TalkingGigs' Alasdair Dempster.

With musical interludes, the conversation in the concert’s first half gave us all a deeper understanding of Gnawa music and its spiritual aspects. It’s a transcendental form of music deeply rooted in Moroccan culture. Colours, percussion, dance, voice and instruments are used in specific ways to invoke a trance state in which emotional healing can take place.

We learnt more about Mohamed’s instrument, the gimbri. Played in one key, with the middle string providing a drone, it has links to the banjo, an instrument also with African origins. The circular, trance-like feel of the music comes from this limited range and repetition.

To everyone’s surprise and delight a trio of dancers joined the musicians on stage. In colourful traditional Gnawa costumes they added another dimension to the sensory experience of the night.

The show’s all-music second half highlighted Gnawa’s rhythms and as the sounds flowed, the audience were inspired to get up and dance. Once more the dancers in a range of costumes and styles encouraged both the musicians and the audience to take it higher and lift the spirits.

Opening the second half with a stunning fusion version of 'Wayfaring Stranger', Justin and Mohamed later gave us their own take on 'Still Moving', the title track of Justin’s latest award-winning album. Sheffield’s own Mim Suleiman also joined them on stage for a song.

There was a real sense of celebration as audience and performers raised the rafters in Firth Hall. Listening to comments as I reluctantly left the hall, I could hear the enthusiasm from the audience: “One of the best!”

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