Pry Yourself Loose and Listen

Gnaoua, No. 1 (Tangier, Spring 1964)

Poet, photographer, filmmaker, editor, and publisher Ira Cohen produced this one-shot magazine in Tangier in 1964. The title refers to an ethnic group originating in North and West Africa who eventually became part of the Sufi order in Morocco. In Cohen’s brief editorial statement, he notes that the magazine is named for the ecstatic dancing and possession trances of the North African sect of the same name, and concludes that “The object is exorcism”.

The magazine was in printed in Antwerp by Roger Binnemans and features striking cover art by Cohen’s then-girlfriend, the artist Rosalind Schwartz and features 5 black and white photographic plates illustrating Jack Smith’s “Superstars of Cinemaroc”, reproducing images from Smith’s infamous film Flaming Creatures (1963). Bob Dylan featured a copy of Gnaoua prominently on the cover of his fifth album, Bringing It All Back Home, among other artefacts chosen to pay tribute to the artist’s influences; it is possible that it was in Gnaoua that he first came across the work of William Burroughs.

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