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Moroccan Musicians InnoVe Gnawa

Moroccan musician Samir LanGos plays trance music with his group in the subway; for customers in his limo; and for this reporter over the phone. Singing with his sintir, a banjo-like instrument, LanGos belted several lines that sounded like a whole band, not just one guy playing 2 ½ chords.

On Jan. 31, LanGos will join fellow countrymen from the group, InnoVe Gnawa, at Church Avenue Yoga & Bodywork Center (CAYBC) in Brooklyn.

"Gnawa means crazy people," said LanGos, whose stage name meanslobster in French. "Not crazy like dangerous, but like in using a language that people don't understand, like, 'You talk crazy to me.'"

Guided by Maalem Hassan Ben Jaafer, a master of the craft, the group of five to six performers will share traditional poetry, rhythm, and dance of the Gnawa people, an ethnic group from North and West Africa, who were originally brought to Morocco as slaves. Over time, Gnawa became associated with the mystic Sufi order.

"For Arabic people who understand the words, we can go into a trance," LanGos said. "Even if you don't know, you can go into a trance. It depends on the atmosphere. The music is directly associated with Islam, but it has no religion."

As seen on YouTube, InnoVe Gnawa will perform a "lila," an entire night of celebration dedicated to healing. One line of poetry can be repeated several times against a few quivering chords.

"It's typically related to a mystical tradition," said Bob Doto, owner of CAYBC. "It's less a concert than a happening. It goes until they're done."

Doto became acquainted with InnoVe Gnawa through one of his students. His studio, which opened last May, prides itself on not being a "cookie cutter" yoga studio. CAYBC welcomes unique events, like InnoVe Gnawa.

"I come for the punk rock tradition of the '80s and '90s where we were always putting together venues and looking for a space," Doto said, "in your mother's living room or in a VFW Hall. It just made sense to find a space to do permanent work in."

The cozy center contains a practice area and two treatment rooms, where clients receive tui na, myofascial release, and deep tissue massages. Yoga offerings include ashtanga, basic, and a hatha mix.

"We're a neighborhood studio," said Doto, who has lived in the area for eight years. "It looks more like a cabin. It doesn't have that spa, faux Zen look. I made a studio that I would want to go to. It's a place to experience the body in all of its weirdness through yoga, bodywork, Chinese tui na, and trance-inducing Moraccan music. Our basic motto is: Use the body to gain knowledge."

To preregister for InnoVe Gnawa, click here. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 online and $20 at the door. There are limited cushions, so you may want to bring something soft to sit on.

--Ann Votaw

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