Colfe’s School take part in global music event with Moroccan Gnawa and Chinese Pipa Musicians

Pupils from Colfe’s School, Lewisham, listened to traditional Moroccan Gnawa musician and a Chinese pipa soloist play in a lively educational global music event hosted by SOAS Library.  

Students from the school joined in the fun and were able to get a flavour of the culture and music of Morocco and China. The event was a successful example of community outreach, bridging the worlds of local schooling and a global university environment for the school pupils.  

SOAS Library has over 1.5 million volumes, periodicals and audio-visual materials in 400 languages, as well as special collections of manuscripts, rare books and archives – all focusing on Asia, Africa and the Middle East. They host a series of events throughout the year covering the histories, cultures, and arts of the regions. 

Pictured: Mohamed Errebbaa talks to pupils about Moroccan Gnawa music.

Gnawa music is a unique style of music that originated in Morocco and is known for its hypnotic rhythms and trance-like qualities. It is often associated with spiritual healing practices and is believed to evoke powerful emotions in listeners. The traditional genre has deep roots in African traditions.  

Mohamed Errebbaa – the Gnawa musician – is a master of this music genre originally from Rabat, Morocco and now based in Bristol, UK. Errebbaa learned traditional music in Morocco, specialising in Gnawa from a young age, and trained with some of Morocco’s highly respected Masters with whom he played at ceremonies, festivals and other events. Errebbaa has collaborated with many different artists including Nelly Stharre & Trevy Felix, Antonia Vai, Justin Adams and so many others. 

Pictured: Cheng Yu shows pupils the Chinese pipa instrument.

The Chinese pipa instrument was also played for the students by soloist, Cheng Yu. The pipa, or sometimes called the ‘Chinese lute’, is a traditional Chinese musical instrument, belonging to the plucked category of instruments. It is one of the most popular Chinese instruments and has been played for almost two thousand years in China. 

Cheng Yu is a renowned pipa and guqin zither virtuoso, ethnomusicologist, and specialist in Chinese music. Yu studied the pipa from the age of 7 from her father (a Pudong pipa master) and the guqin zither from the age of 14. She graduated with distinction from the Xi'an Conservatory of Music and won several top prizes for her pipa performances. Based in London since the 1990s, she gained scholarships for her MMus and PhD degrees in ethnomusicology at SOAS. 

The event was organised by Dr Georgie Pope, SOAS Library’s Music Outreach and Events Coordinator. The event was in collaboration with the Global Music Academy and the Gnawa workshop has been supported by the Arts Council England

The University plans to hold more of such events in the future and looks forward to fostering further cultural dialogue through outreach. 

Pictured: Dr Georgie Pope talks about the music event to the students from Colfe's School.