Grooz – the play on words is obvious – embodies Algerian groove that quite naturally exctends the ancestral tradition of Gnawa music by incorporating it in reggae beats and western jazz-rock sounds. The sound and electrical effects come together at the hectic tempo of a joyful trance borne by the silky voice of the group’s singer and founder, Abdelhak Benmedjebari.
Born into the savoury broth of traditional North African musical styles with Moroccan Gnawa and Algerian diwan as their sources, Abdelhak Benmedjebari has performed on stage since age 8 alongside his father, the famous Maâlem Mejbar, with whom he recorded an initial album at age 12. His uncles, members of the Gaâda Diwane Béchar group, are known worldwide and tour far and wide. This gives him excellent models to follow, firmly anchored in tradition.
Influenced by the very ancient Gnawa culture that originated with black slaves from sub-Saharan Africa, he learned the instruments characteristic of this genre, metal rattles (called karkabou) as well as the basic four-string bass called the guembri, the traditional instrument of the mâalems – the singers and leaders of Gnawa groups.
The idea of establishing Grooz as a group took shape earlier in the 2010s in Algiers, where Abdelhak was studying at the École des Beaux-Arts. He brought together musicians from the four corners of Algeria and drew inspiration from his home town, Béchar, home to diwan in southwest Algeria. His lyrics speak of life, love and youth in Algeria. Invited to perform at numerous festivals across Algeria, the group put together a dynamic show blending reggae, blues, rock and jazz with the traditional Gnawa repertory.
Now established in Québec, Grooz has been enriched by musicians from Morocco, Guadeloupe, Côte d’Ivoire, Peru and, of course, Québec. In 2016, Grooz brought out its first single, Jambirika, and performs at numerous festivals and events in the Montréal and Toronto areas. Singer, bass player and guitarist Abdelhak Benmedjebari and his group, energetic and communicative, have a knack for electrifying a crowd in almost no time and bringing them into a contagious trance.