After yesterday’s African food, I decided to complete the experience by bopping to some African music. But this was at an unexpected spot: Union Pool in Williamsburg, a place usually teeming with obnoxious facial hair, tattoos, and tacos.

But tonight, Nass Gnawa was welcomed to the stage. The vibrant, fez-topped five put on a performance of Gnawa music, 900-year-old music that references ancient African Islamic songs, rhythms and chants. There were no breaks between any of the songs, putting me into a bit of a trance. See below for a snippet:

I was particularly intrigued by the three-stringed lute (also known as a hajhuj or gimbri), which looked like an enlarged cricket bat with strings; it was soulful like bass but with Eastern tones. It drove the entire show and was punctuated by drums, krakebs, claps, and voices.

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I also enjoyed how the performance wasn’t polished; it was more like they just felt the music – when to come in, when to clap, when to sing. It was rough around the edges, which conjured images of performing for a community.

My Africa education will never be complete, but it’s definitely been nudged a little closer by visiting a couple of events right on my doorstep in NYC this week. It makes me think of what else I could go and see or do to enjoy other more richer cultures in the world, in Virginia, there are top restaurants downtown Charlottesville that serve South African food I’m thinking about checking out to get into the culture more.

Union Pool

Union Pool

Union Pool