1. Introduction

The Gnawa, a group of sub-Saharan Africans who came to Morocco mostly as slaves in the 15th and 16th centuries, are musicians who use the media of music and trance to heal those possessed by spirits.* The Gnawa heal those afflicted with spirit possession in Morocco through an all-night ceremony (called a lila)(1) that placates the spirits with music, incense, colors and animal sacrifice. The Gnawa play music that induces trance through the regular rhythms of heavy metal castanets (qraqab, pl.) and the bass melodies provided by the ginbri, a three-stringed instrument tuned in an octave and a fifth. Their identity as former slaves, as well as their syncretic religious practices within the context of Islam, differentiates them from the majority of Moroccans. As the racially-marked other in Morocco with a clear African genealogy, the Gnawa attract the attention of European, American and African-American musicians who have been coming to Morocco for decades in search of "authentic" African music. Indeed, the Gnawa have become very popular on the world music market, collaborating with American and African-American jazz musicians, French recording artists and participating in festivals all over Europe, also touring occasionally in the United States. In this essay, I contribute to discussions of how different histories (in this case, racial and musical histories) come into contact, and inhabit each other, producing "links" in the global imagination, new genealogies that create possible futures.

How does one possess culture and how is one possessed by it? How do vastly different cultural imaginations travel, like spirits, and come to inhabit other hosts? And how does music facilitate this process? Examining the collaboration of musicians from Morocco and the United States elucidates how different cultural imaginations inhabit musical forms and travel within them, and, contrariwise, how performance genres act upon and change cultural imaginations and representations of history, which, in turn, produce what Paul Gilroy refers to as a politics of transfiguration, "a counterculture that defiantly reconstructs its own critical, intellectual and moral genealogy in a partially hidden public sphere of its own" (1993: 37-38)(2).

In this article I explore the notion of possession as it relates to cultural knowledge, aesthetics and experience in the world music market. Specifically I analyze how a strand of African-American history is appropriated into a Moroccan historical narrative of identity and further, how the "museumization" of this history (in sound, images and words) affects this. I examine how hybrid cultural imaginations, spawned largely through processes of transnationalism, are authored and how they, in turn, come to inhabit us as if possessing independent agency. This not only demonstrates the power of popular culture to create political shifts at the national and the trans-national levels through the harnessing of affect-laden aesthetic forms (Lipsitz 1994), but it elucidates how trans-national imaginations are formed through music and discourse (Feld 1995; Sherzer 1987; Urban 1991) and the import of such forms on the global marketplace (Appadurai 1990; 1996). It also furthers our understanding of trance, explaining the contemporary fascination of such heightened affective experience in terms of global economies of desire (Boddy 1989; Lambek 1993; cf. Browning 1998)(3).

This work distinguishes itself from previous scholarly works on Morocco (Combs-Shillings 1989; Crapanzano 1973, 1980; K. Dwyer 1982; Eickelman 1976; Evers-Rosander 1991; Geertz 1978; Hammoudi 1993, 1997; Kapchan 1996; Ossman 1994; Pandolfo 1997; Rosen 1984) by analyzing how Moroccan culture influences and interacts with other, non-local cultures, contributing to emergent aesthetic and ideological formations at the global level (Appadurai 1996; cf. Ossman 2002).

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