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Dark-skinned and blue-eyed, Abdullah Al Kurd’s curious colouring always leads to questions about his background. Abdullah is a master of gnaoua bahriya, a distinctive style of music native to the Moroccan coast. At the sessions he holds every day at a Sufi lodge opposite Bab Al Marsa in Old Tangier, devotees smoking traditional sebsi pipes attempt to achieve t’hayyur – the trance-like state at the heart of the gnaoua tradition – and train for concerts at home and abroad. In 1967, a chance meeting brought Abdullah together with American jazz legend Randy Weston, who had come to Tangier as part of a US cultural delegation. Together they produced a unique musical fusion of jazz and gnaoua, and for Abdullah this marked the beginning of a lifelong project to “rehabilitate” gnawa’s occult image in Morocco while forging connections with like-minded spirits from Africa and beyond. He has had a clear influence on the famous Essouaira Gnaoua Festival, which features an eclectic mixture of funk, blues, jazz and soul alongside traditional local music.