Morocco offers a musical experience that’s as vibrant and diverse as its culture. From the hypnotic rhythms of Gnawa to the contemporary beats of Casablanca-born rappers, the Moroccan music scene is a fusion of the old and the new, the sacred and the profane. Here’s a glimpse into the world of Moroccan music that awaits the luxury traveler.
Gnawa Music: A Spiritual Journey
Originally from sub-Saharan Africa, Gnawa music is a popular form of spiritual chanting in Morocco. A single song can last several hours, inducing a trance-like effect. Accompanied by lutes and castanets, Gnawa is a modernized form that fuses with jazz, reggae, and raï. Notable practitioners include Hassan Hakmoun and Brooklyn-based Innov Gnawa.
Dating back to the ninth century, Andalusian music combines Arabic music with Spanish flamenco-style folk music. Often heard during religious ceremonies, it’s a classical sound that thrives in major Moroccan cities like Fez and Tetouan. Instruments like the violin, lute, and rabāb (an Arab fiddle) create a timeless melody.
Raï Music: The Voice of Youth
Originating in Algeria and adopted by Morocco in the 1980s, raï music is a blend of traditional and Western instruments. With lyrics revolving around social and economic issues, it resonates with young people. Morocco’s spin on raï includes drum machines, synths, and electric guitars, making it a unique and contemporary sound.
Berber music, though not as popular as it once was, survives through musicians and poets like Ammouri Mbarek and Najat Aatabou. The primary instrument, the bendir (a frame drum), creates a rhythm that has been a staple in northern Africa for centuries.
Modern Moroccan Music
Casablanca’s urban scene has given birth to talents like rapper Dizzy DROS and Mr. Crazy. Modern Moroccans have also embraced ancient Gnawa, fusing it with other musical traditions. The late, Algerian-born DJ Cheb i Sabbah mixed Gnawa with Western music to create “trance grooves.”
Festivals and Celebrations
Morocco’s traditional music is showcased at the annual Marrakech Popular Arts Festival, where multiple styles are performed under the desert sun. The Festival of World Sacred Music in Fez assembles musicians from around the world, celebrating diverse musical traditions.
A Melting Pot of Influences
Moroccan music is deeply influenced by its Andalusian, Berber, Spanish, Arabic, and raï history. From the peaceful Andalusian tunes to the politically charged raï, the music scene reflects the country’s multifaceted identity.
A Dance of Cultures and Influences
The Moroccan music scene is a harmonious mix of tradition and modernity, a dance of cultures and influences. Whether you’re swaying to the spiritual chants of Gnawa or tapping your feet to the urban beats of Casablanca, the music of Morocco promises an immersive experience. So pack your dancing shoes and let the rhythms of Morocco take you on a journey both strange and familiar, a land where music is not just heard but felt.