Interview with Hassan Hakmoun on Gnawa Music

Photo by Chikako Iwahori

Moroccan Legend Hassan Hakmoun on 

Gnawa Music & Culture


Known as “the Godfather of Gnawa music,” Hassan Hakmoun is arguably the most famous musician ever to emerge from Morocco.


Born in Marrakech in 1963, he grew up with a mother widely known as a mystic healer who conducted trance-inducing ceremonies (referred to as lila or derdeba)– typically all-night affairs in which hypnotic music, dance and chanting is used to heal illness and communicate with or exorcise spirits. Rooted in ancient African Islamic spiritual traditions, Gnawa music captured Hakmoun’s  interest at an early age, and by the time he was 14 he was leading his own musical ensemble.


Hassan Hakmoun with Jazz Legend Miles Davis

A Young Hassan Hakmoun with Jazz Legend Miles Davis


A master of the sintir– a 3-stringed bass lute with a body made of camel skin stretched over nutwood– Hakmoun moved to New York in the late ’80s, becoming a star on the jazz-rock-world music fusion scene. He recorded one album with jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, another for Peter Gabriel’s Real World label, and turned icons like Miles Davis, David Sanborn and U2 producer Daniel Lanois into rabid fans. In recent years he’s worked with a diverse array of artists ranging from Latin hip-hop hybrids Ozomatli to his ex-wife, singer-songwriter Paula Cole.


Now, nearly 20 years after his last solo album, Hassan Hakmoun is back with a new CD, Unity, on his own Healing Records label.  It’s a rollicking record rooted in Gnawa musical traditions, combining spiritual call-and-response vocals with hypnotic percussion, mesmerizing bass, and deep African blues grooves. I was truly honored to get a chance to speak with a legendary artist I’ve listened to for 20+ years now, covering everything from the healing power of Gnawa music to his favorite places to go in Morocco.

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Bird's Eye View of Bora Bora, Tahiti

21 Tahiti Photos

to Fuel Your Exotic Island Fantasies


Wanderlust has officially kicked in!


It happens to us every year around this time, when spring has sprung, but it’s still too cool out (lows in the upper 40s, highs in the mid-70s) to go swimming. We start fantasizing about escaping to some gorgeous Exotic Island, with warm beaches and cold tropical drinks. Though we’ve traveled to the mountains outside Asheville and the cultural melting pot of New Orleans in the last two months, there’s a certain itch that only a tropical getaway can scratch.


In April of 2013, we were just coming back from an AMAZING 10-day trip to Tahiti. We spent half our time exploring the island of Moorea, and the other half savoring the life of luxury in Bora Bora. Now, a year later, it feels like some distant dream of a Polynesian paradise that you never want to wake up from.


Fortunately, we have the photos below to prove it really happened. Hope they’ll inspire you to make your own travel dreams come true.  –Bret Love; photos by Bret Love

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Bears, a review of the new film from DisneyNature

BEARS Movie Review

Another Winning Documentary from Disney Nature


I freakin’ love Bears. I’ve had four of them tattooed on my body. I’ve traveled to Denali National Park, Churchill and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge just to see grizzlies, polar bears and black bears in the wild. Each time I see them up close, I become more certain that bears are my spirit animal. But you don’t need to be an ursine aficionado to love the new Bears movie from Disneynature.


Though most people may not remember it today, Walt Disney Productions set the standard for wildlife documentaries more than 60 years ago.


Between 1948 and 1960, the studio released 14 True-Life Adventures nature films: Three of them (1953’s Living Desert, 1954’s Vanishing Prairie, and 1958’s White Wilderness) won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, while five others (including a 1953 gem called Bear Country) won Oscars for Best Live Action Short Film.

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Swimming with whale sharks in Cancun, Mexico

Face to Face with the World’s Largest Fish Species

Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cancun


We’re not even in the water yet, but already my heart is pounding in my chest.


I’m on a boat about 2 hours from Cancun, on the perimeter of a circle of dozens of other boats filled with eager tourists. Like my 12-year-old daughter and I, they’re all here for a singular purpose: The once-in-a-lifetime experience of Swimming with Whale Sharks, the largest known fish species in the world.


Though the glare of the morning sun on the water is nearly blinding, the 35-foot, 20,000-pound whale sharks aren’t difficult to spot. In fact, their hulking forms are everywhere we look, swimming in slow, lazy circles to filter-feed on krill and plankton at the surface, seemingly oblivious to our presence. Thankfully, our captain stays far away from the other boats, so that when one of these gentle giants swims near we will have them all to ourselves.


As he brings the boat to a halt, a massive whale shark swims straight for us. He looks as wide as a VW Beetle, and as long as a school bus, gliding effortlessly with his mouth wide open. At the last second his spotted form swerves past us, changing directions surprisingly quickly with a mere flip of his tail. I’m 6’2″ and built like a linebacker, but suddenly even I feel very small by comparison.

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Ivanpah Solar Plant Project

Photo by Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images for Bechtel

NRG Energy CEO David Crane on the

Ivanpah Solar Plant


Over the past decade, NRG Energy’s David Crane has emerged as a leading voice on the topic of climate change and curbing carbon emissions. He was one of the first power industry CEOs in the U.S. to call for mandatory climate change measures. Now, in the Mojave Desert’s Ivanpah Dry Lake,  Crane is leading a project that could add a turbo-charged boost to America’s Clean Energy revolution.


Known as the Ivanpah Solar Plant, the $2.6 billion venture boasts some impressive stats, using 170,000 heliostat mirrors to generate 392 megawatts of solar-generated electricity. Offsetting millions of tons of carbon emissions, Ivanpah is the largest solar energy plant in the world, powering around 100,000 homes with emission-free electricity.


But Ivanpah is not without its fair share of controversy: Some environmentalists have protested the project as “a deadly trap for wildlife,” because the heat it generates has reportedly killed hundreds of birds.  Other critics carp that “The Ivanpah Solar Plant is already irrelevant,” because it relies on thermal rather than photovoltaic solar energy.


But with huge votes of confidence from President Barack Obama, huge investments by the U.S Department of Energy and Google, and the U.S. lagging behind other countries in developing renewable energy resources, Ivanpah has received considerable ink in sustainability circles since its opening ceremony in February.


During an extensive conversation with Crane, we discussed America’s need for an increased focus on renewable energy resources, the economic and environmental impact of the Ivanpah Solar Plant, and the future balance between sustainable energy and fossil fuels.

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Destinations We’ve Covered:

Egypt- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Madagascar- Ring-tailed Lemurs at Anja Reserve
Morocco- A Journey into the Atlas Mountains
South Africa- Londolozi Game Reserve Safari
South Africa- Kruger National Park
South Africa- South Africa- Zulu Memories
Tanzania- Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

How To Get To Antarctica w/out Doing the Drake
The Haunting Beauty of Icebergs
Penguins of Antarctica
Taking the Polar Plunge
Top 5 Eco Attractions in Antarctica
Whales of Antarctica
Borneo- Sabah Ecotourism Attractions
India- Ranthambhore National Park
India- Tibetan Culture In Ladakh
Laos- The Pastoral Paradise of Muang Ngoi
Malaysia- Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Malaysia- Orangutan Conservation at Sepilok
Nepal- Hiking The Annapurna Circuit
Taiwan- Top 5 Eco Activities in Taipei
Thailand- Top 5 National Parks
Australia- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Australia-Kangaroo Island
Australia-Maria Island
New Zealand- Kapiti Island
New Zealand- Tongariro National Park
New Zealand- Top 5 Ecotourism Attractions
Tahiti- First Impressions
Tahiti- Photo Gallery
Tahiti- Moorea 4x4 Safari Tour
Tahiti- Moorea, Tiki Village Theater
Tahiti- Pearl Diving in Bora Bora
Tahiti- Ruahatu Marine Sanctuary, Bora Bora
Tahiti- Swimming With Sharks in Bora Bora
Tonga- Eua Island Eco Activities


Churchill- Into the Wild of Manitoba
Churchill- Polar Bear Fight
Churchill- Polar Bear Photo Gallery
Churchill- Tundra Wildlife

America’s Best Volcanoes
AL- Fishing Mobile Bay
AL- Mobile Carnival Museum
AK- Denali National Park
CA- Hiking The John Muir Trail
FL- Sanibel Island Eco Activities
FL- Crystal River, Swimming with Manatees
FL- Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
GA- Barnsley Gardens
GA- Top 5 Autumn Activities Around Atlanta
GA- Best Christmas Light Displays
GA- Top 20 Atlanta Christmas Events
GA- Jekyll Island Eco Activities
GA- Weekend in North GA Mountains
GA- Top 5 Eco Attractions in North GA
HI- Hawaii’s Big Island
HI- Hawaiian Mythology
HI - Top 5 Kauai Nature Attractions
LA- Lafayette Cajun Food Tour
LA- Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday
LA- Voodoo Museum
MT- Hiking Glacier National Park
NC- Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
NC- Asheville's Green Restaurants Scene
NC- Asheville's Top Ecotourism Attractions
NC- Greensboro Travel Guide
NC- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
NC- Outer Banks Wild Horses
NM- Top 5 Eco Attractions
NY- Going Green in NYC
TX- Sea Turtle Rescue, South Padre Island
WV- Outdoor Adventures
Yellowstone- Mammoth Hot Springs
Yellowstone- Lamar Valley
Yellowstone- Grand Canyon & Hayden Valley
Yellowstone- Upper Geyser Basin
Yellowstone- Lower Geyser Basin

Cancun- Cancun Underwater Museum
Cancun- Mayan Museum of Archaeology
Cancun- Swimming with Whale Sharks
Riviera Maya- Monkeys, Pyramids & Pottery
Riviera Maya- Rio Secreto
Riviera Maya- Tulum & Coba