The Mawazine World Rhythms Festival is entering its 11th year on the music scene of Morocco from May 18-26. This festival, held yearly in Rabat, pays tribute to Moroccan musicians and celebrates the musical talents of the world. The concerts are presented free of charge except for the area directly in front of the stage, where the fee varies depending on the performance. A card is available for 3000DH that gives access to the front stage area of any of the concerts.
The Mawazine festival has come under criticism from many Moroccans who feel the production is a waste of resources that could be better spent improving the everyday lives of Moroccans. Wherever someone stands on the issue, this music festival brings together some of the biggest names for nine days of fun.
Free concerts are held on four open air stages and three paying venues hold more traditional world music around the city of Rabat. Each stage features a specific genre of music ranging from rock-and-roll to classical music, from traditional African beats to Arab and Persian pop. This year’s event will pay tribute to three Moroccan musicians. The first tribute is the 1960s rock musical Abdelghafour Mohcine, whose sounds are similar to those of Stevie Wonder and Otis Redding. Next Mohamed Rouicha, a famous outar (a music like a flute and commonly found in Berber music) musician will be honored, and his son will play in concert. Lastly the 1970s avant-garde Lemchaheb Band, which blends traditional Berber music with western influence, will be honored.
Along with musical performances, panel discussions will occur with Moroccan and foreign professionals of culture. These panels will focus on the music industry in Morocco and especially address piracy and financial aspects of the industry. Also occurring throughout the event are street shows of acrobat troupes, skilled dancing, and dance and music combinations. Workshops will also be occurring to allow beginners to get to know more about the stars on display and their career paths. Workshops on music video production, musical production, percussion and contemporary dance will be offered.
Some of the performers who will be included this year are LMFAO, Mariah Carey, Pitbull, DJ Abdel, Fire of Anatolia, Nancy Ajram, Marwan Khoury, Wael Kfoury, Outlandish, Fnaire, Gloria Gaynor, Moroccan Royal Symphony and many, many more.
If your journey finds you in Rabat during this time, expect accommodations and transportation to be much more crowded and scarce. If you have no interest in the festival it may make sense to take a day trip or two away from Rabat at this time, perhaps to Casablanca, Kenitra or Meknes, which offer a good diversion. However, if you love music, you’re in the right place. If it is in your budget, purchase space closer to the stage to ensure a good view and less congestion, but, most importantly, enjoy this festival!
Written by Amanda Mouttaki.
Photo by Achraf AMINE