The Kennedy Center



Nawal is originally from the Comoros Islands, known as the "Perfume Islands" or "Islands of the Moon," located in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa. Born into a family with many musicians, Nawal was immersed in both popular and spiritual music from a young age, in her native islands and also in her new home in France.
Between traditional and contemporary, Nawal's music weaves a rich dialog of cultures, a reflection of the diverse character of life in her native islands. Indo-Arabian-Persian music meets Bantu polyphonies, the syncopated rhythms and Sufi trance of the Indian Ocean. Nawal sings in Comorian, Arabic, French, and English. An acoustic roots-based fusion, her music is rhythmically compelling and beautifully lyrical. Known as the "Voice of Comoros," Nawal is also the first Comorian woman singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist to give performances in public.
As a Muslim-born African woman who does not always adhere to traditional socio-religious codes, Nawal has faced many challenges in her career, yet she remains strong in her message and philosophy. Descending from the grand Sufi Marabout of Comoros, El-Maarouf, Nawal invariably stays with the light of Islam founded upon love, respect, and peace. In her music, she sings in favor of all humans, for education and for union.
Nawal has gained international praise as a self-produced artist with her powerful voice and socially progressive commentary. Nawal has performed professionally for 20 years, and as a multi-instrumentalist she plays the gambusi (Comorian banjo-like instrument, cousin to oud), the daf (Iranian frame drum), and guitar, among others. Her first full-length album, Kweli (Truth), was released in 2001 and was well-received by fans and the press. Putumayo featured Nawal's song "Hima," recorded with Donna Africa, on the Women of Africa compilation released in 2004.  Aman (Peace of the Soul), Nawal's second album, was released in 2007 and was called "one of the of the most notable world music CDs released over the last year" by Jon Pareles in the New York Times.