Alternate Name(s): Sintir,Gunibri
Geographic Region: Africa
Country of origin: Morocco
Definition: Three to five string plucked lute
SvH No.: 321.312
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A plucked lute with a rectangular-shaped wooden resonator. The neck is spiked into the body, which has a skin soundtable with an opening near the bottom through which the strings can be attached to one end of the neck. At the other end of the neck each string is tied to a tuning noose (not shown clearly on this instrument, which is not in working condition), which can be moved higher or lower on the neck to alter the pitch. A metal plaque with rings around its edges is stuck into top the end of the neck, yielding a jingling sound when the strings are plucked. All of theses features are much closer to plucked lutes in West Africa (especially the large Bamana ngoni in Mali) than others in North Africa (see Charry 1996).
The gimbri is played by Gnawa (spelled "Gnaoua" in French writing), professional musicians and healers of sub-Saharan origin brought to North Africa centuries ago in the slave trade. Their ceremonies, called derdeba (in Morocco and Algeria) or stambali (in Tunisia), differ from the Sufi hadra in that jinns or supernatural beings are introduced and they are aimed at healing individuals. Essaouria is an important Gnawa center and is home to a Gnawa festival (see Related Web Links). Gnawas claim descent from Bilal (or Sidi Bilali), the black African slave freed by Muhammed who then became his muezzin. They most likely descend from Bambara (a catch-all term referring to any number of Malian peoples), Hausa, and other peoples living just south of the Sahara. The situation of Gnawa has been compared to that of Africans in the Americas who forged new religions and musics by combining the belief systems of the lands from where they came with those of their new homes (Lapassade 1982).
The gimbri is typically played in healing ceremonies (often resulting in possession) along with shaqshaqa (or qarqabat in Arabic), large metal castanets that resemble those used by Hausa women, and ganga (tabl in Arabic), a large double-headed drum played with one curved and one straight stick similar to drums played throughout the sahel, especially the Hausa ganga.
Charry, Eric. 1996. "Plucked Lutes in West Africa: an Historical Overview," Galpin Society
Journal 49: 3-37.
Boussou, Amida. 199?. Chants et musique Gnawa du Maroc. v. 1: Gnawa leila.
Al Sur, ALCD 101.
Last Modified: 05-May-2005TOP