One of my favourite Arabic songs is the Algerian chaâbi classic, Ya Rayah, which was revived and brought to a new generation of North Africans, Europeans and Arabic speakers by the now almost mythical 1,2,3 Soleils concert of 1998. I heard the original by Dahmane el Harrachi (from the 1970s) on the radio in a taxi in Fez the other day and it prompted me to look into the song a little further. Continue reading
The 20th Essaouira Gnaoua Festival gets underway on 29 June 2017. For an overview of this year’s format and programme, see my post here. I am not able to attend this year, but if I were, here are the acts that I would most look forward to seeing.
Thursday, midnight, beach stage – Ribab Fusion
This Agadir band played at my very first Gnaoua Festival in 2011 and really impressed me with their energy and ability to take traditional Moroccan instruments and make them rock! Since then, the band has gained significant international recognition and is set to begin a U.S. tour after the summer festival season. The ribab is a traditional Amazigh stringed instrument from the southwest of Morocco and is often played by a solo player/singer or in front of a group of musicians, singers and dancers. If you are in Essaouira for any length of time, you will see local Berber street musicians playing a version of ribab, but don’t miss Ribab Fusion as they bring the traditions right up to date on the beach stage. Continue reading
The 2017 Essaouira Gnaoua Festival opens later this week and runs from 29 June to 1 July. As before, the event will open with an all-singing, all-dancing, multicoloured opening parade through the centre of the port city. The festival programme features Moroccan Gnaoua groups as well as world music artists from several continents.
All Moroccan summer festivals have experienced timing challenges since Ramadan has fallen in the summer months, reducing the number of weekends available for the organisation of festivals so that they don’t clash with either the Muslim holy month or each other. Following several years of deviation from the usual timing of the third weekend in June, the festival is almost back to its habitual calendar slot, albeit immediately after Ramadan, which may cause some practical issues in terms of preparation during the Eid public holidays. Nonetheless, the stages are already in place in Essaouira and this promises to be an exciting edition of the festival now in its 20th edition. Continue reading
Thanks to my work on multicultural diversity and built heritage with the High Atlas Foundation, I was selected as a participant in a documentary about Christians, Jews, Muslims in Essaouira, city of peaceful cohabitation. The documentary (in French and Arabic) follows 3 Essaouira residents in their daily lives, each of a different cultural/religious heritage, representing the three main groups which historically and still today cohabit peacefully in the town. The documentary was shown on Al Jazeera in February 2017.
Avid followers of this blog will know that my Swiri husband and I now have a baby and I am currently in Essaouira with him (baby not hubby) for the second time. I don’t plan to get into mummy blogging, but I thought some parents might find it useful if I shared my top tips for travelling with baby in Essaouira. Moroccans love kids and your baby will be hugged, kissed and generally entertained everywhere you go. However, there are very few family friendly facilities. Some canny packing will help you make your trip with your previous little one as trouble-free as possible. Continue reading
Although I have this maroc-o-philes section on the website, it would be hard to interview myself… Fortunately expat.com wanted to do the job for me. Here is their interview with me, Lynn Sheppard….
Lynn in Essaouira: “The Moroccan lifestyle is pretty laid back”
British expat, Lynn moved to Essaouira more than three years ago to be with her Moroccan partner. Freelance author and travel writer, she particularly enjoys the sun, the beach and the relaxed pace of life in the country.
Where are you from, Lynn, and what are you doing nowadays?
A civil servant and diplomat for 13 years, in 2012 I took a voluntary redundancy and moved to Morocco to be with my partner and establish a new rhythm in my life. I wanted to start a business and live in the sun. Over the last 3 and a half years, I have built a business as a published freelance author and travel writer. I also work with local non-profits and as a virtual PA and marketing consultant. In this way, I have built a totally portable new career.
We live in Essaouira, a town on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast which is famous for sardines, kite-surfing and gnaoua music. You can read about my life in Essaouira and pick up plenty of tips for visiting or living there on my blog, “Maroc-o-Phile“.
Essaouira, 15 May 2015 – Yesterday, Essaouira‘s annual Gnaoua World Music Festival got off to a colourful start with the opening parade and concert featuring local and national gnaoua groups and international World Music artists.
This is the 18th edition of the event, which is the largest in the festival calendar of this small port town on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast. Other annual festivals include the Festival des Alizés, a celebration of international classical and traditional music held every Spring, and the Festival des Andalousies Atlantiques, a festival celebrating the Judeo-Muslim musical traditions of Al Andalous, which are also a frequent feature of Fes festivals such as the Sacred Music Festival, which begins next week in Fes on 22 May 2015.
Each year, the Essaouira Gnaoua Festival gets underway with a parade through the centre of the Essaouira medina of all the gnaoua groups in their finest regalia, embroidered costumes and caps studded with cowrie shells. The bands are often accompanied by standard-bearers carrying huge flags and feature the typical gnaoua instruments: the krakeb castanets, the stringed gimbri and the tbel drum, which is played with a crooked stick.
Every so often, the groups pause to demonstrate the fervent whirling and acrobatics which simulate the trance induced by the heavy beats of the instruments. In the street, though, in this carnival atmosphere, these movements are more for show than religious practice and the circles the gnaoua form resemble an elaborately coloured dance-off between rival acrobatic troupes.
Gnaoua music originated in sub-Saharan Africa. With the trade in goods and men across the great desert, African slaves brought their traditions and their experience of hardship and exile into Morocco. Over time, their traditions were absorbed into Islam and Gnaoua brotherhoods of adherents gathered around a maâlem (master) developed in zawiyas (centres devoted to religious learning). The Gnaoua tradition is strong in Essaouira, with its previous role as a major trading port and its centuries’ old connections to Timbuktu and other West African cities.
Swiris -the natives of Essaouira – are particularly proud of their home-grown masters, such as Maâlem Mahmoud Guinéa and his brother Maâlem Mokhtar Guinéa, Maâlem Allal Soudani and others. However, they are also welcoming of the big names of Gnaoua music from other cities, such as Maâlem Hamid el Kasri, who opened the festival this year alongside Humayun Khan of Afghanistan. When a great maâlem is on stage, throughout the audience, one hears young and old singing along, responding to the chant of the master, and clapping out the frenetic polyphonic beat.
The Gnaoua Festival is also a stage for some of the best Moroccan and international stars of the World Music scene. The most exciting concerts are those on the main stage (on Place Moulay Hassan) late at night. The fusion concerts bring together a gnaoua group with artists from a completely different genre for a unique kind of mash-up unlike any other. Gnaoua jazz? Sufi-Voodoo fusion? Gnaoua-folk? Everything is possible under the starry skies and the gusting trade winds of Essaouira!
This article originally appeared on the blog, The View From Fez.
The cuisine of Morocco is becoming increasingly well-known abroad and a popular holiday activity is a cookery class where students can learn about the intricate blends of spices, the diverse influences on Moroccan cuisine and attempt to create their own culinary masterpieces. Over the past year, I have tried two cookery classes in Essaouira – one a well-established brand, the other a homely newcomer. I enjoyed both immensely, even though I could already make some key Moroccan dishes. If you want to do a cookery class in Essaouira, I recommend one of these two options. Continue reading
The setting was magical: a modern rig of a stage placed at one end of the massive cortyard at the centre of the 16th century El Badi Palace in Marrakech. As the sun began to set, the heat of the day lifted and hundreds of candles set in lanterns around the place began to twinkle. The famous storks of the Kasbah (King’s Quarters) returned to roost on the crumbling ochre walls to watch the scene unfold. We were here to experience the magic – not only of Marrakech, but of one of jazz’s greatest legends, Herbie Hancock. Continue reading