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19th Annual Gnaoua Music Festival May 12th - 15th, 2016

Posted by Alecia Cohen on April 22, 2016 at 5:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Gnaoua Festival 19th Annual Program

Morocco announces the 19th Gnaoua Festival which will take place in the Coastal town of Essaouira from May 12th - 15th, 2016. This annual festival will feature artists from around the world along with Gnaoua Maalem greats. The Gnaoua Festival is sponsored by Maroc Telecom, Sidi Ali, Bankque Populaire, Oulmes and several other Moroccan companies. The Gnaoua Festival is the voice of a tradition, memory and music. Nineteen years ago, a team of local Souri's started an event, 100% Moroccan which enabled the Gnaoua Maalems to usher in a new chapter of their life.

Maalem Mahmoud Guinea

Once called, Mogador and the Port of Timbuktu, Essaouira continues to host this annual fetival that has received international acclaim. The unique combination of International stars, Jazz greats and traditional Gnaouas makes it one of a kind. Tributes to this years annual festival will be made to Maalem Mahmoud Guinea and the great Doudou Ndiaye Rose, magician of the Senegalese drum. Mahmoud Guinia was a Moroccan Gnawa musician, singer and guembri player, who was traditionally regarded as a Maâllem, i.e. master.

Doudou Ndiaye Rose

Doudou Ndiaye Rose was a Senegalese drummer, composer and band leader, and was the recognized modern master of Senegal's traditional drum, the sabar. He recorded for both domestic and foreign labels, and collaborated with numerous western musicians. There will be a combination of residences, early evening and late night Concerts along with conference style meet ups, all Gnaoua and Souri style. Below is an up close view at the 19th Annual Gnaoua Festival's line up and artist program.

Artist Line Up - Essaouira 19th Gnaoua Festival From the USA:

Randy Weston: Africa Jamaaladeen Tacuma: Groove Christian Scott: Hewho youth to jazz Jeff Ballard Trio Blitz The Ambassador Hassan Hakmoun: International Gnaoui

From EUROPE: Las Migas: Flamenco witha female fusion tone Jaba & Friends: Roots & reggae

From AFRICA: Hoba Hoba Spirit: The Moroccan music phenomenon event! Mohamed Derham N3rdistan: Rock, rap and Arabic poetry! Songhoy Blues:the quiet force of Timbuktu DoudouN'diaye Rose family:Tribute to mathematician of the Drum! Mehdi Nassouli: The Hajhouj conquering the world RachidaTalal,The pearl of the South Oudaden, rebirth of Amazigh music 3ADA Swiria Issaoua of Fez Hmadcha

Festival Stars from MOROCCO Festival stars: Maalemsfrom all over Morocco (Casablanca, Marrakech, Essaouira, Meknes, Rabat, Ksar El Kebir) MAALEM HAMID EL KASRI: The Santana of the Gnaouis MAALEM ABDELLAH AKHARRAZ: Worthy successor of the Guinea heritage MAALEM ABDESSLAM ALIKANE: Themaalem of maalems MAALEM HASSAN BOUSSOU: The prodigal son MAALEM OMAR HAYAT: For love of Reggae MAALEM ABDELKEBIR MERCHANE, The Gnaoui with silver hands MAALEM MOHAMED KOUYOU, The most American of maalems! MAALEM MAHJOUB KHELMOUS, The magician of the guembri MAALEM MOKHTAR GUINEA:Tagnaouite running in his blood MAALEM SAID OUGHESSAL:A Hispanic breeze blowing on Gnaoua MAALEM ABDENBI EL GUEDARI: An electro Gnaoui MAALEM MUSTAPHA BAQBOU:The hippy Maalem MAALEM SEDDIK BOUNHAR:The passionate Gnaoui who has travelled the world MAALEM AHMED BAQBOU: The gnaoui prince of the ochre-colored city MAALEM Said BOULHIMAS: Maalemin spite of himself MAALEM ALLAL SOUDANI: Ancestral Gnaoui MAALEM SAID BOURKI: Faithful to tradition MAALEM ABDELKADER AMLIL:The Gnaouibluesman MAALEM ABDENBI EL MEKNASSI:“ ElMeknassi” MAALEM RACHID EL HAMZAOUI:Gnaoui Ghiwani

The Official Festival Program - Essaouira 19th Gnaoua Festival

May 13th, 2016 Place: Zaouia Disna Bilal Artist Line Up: Maalem Allal et Najib Soudani and Maalem Said Boulhimas and Maalem Said El Bourki Time: 11:00pm Place: Dar Loubane Artist Line Up: Anciens Gnaoua Time: 12:00am Place: Dar Loubane Artist Line Up: Maalem Seddik Bounhar Time: 12:05am - Residence Place: Dar Loubane Artist Line Up: Songhoy Blues and Maalem Abdeslam Alikane

May 14th, 2016 Time: 8:00pm Place: Place Moulay Hassan Artist: Maalem Abdellah Akharaz Time: 8:05pm Place: Place Moulay Hassan Artist: Movie Projection - Maalem Mahmoud Guinea Time: 9:15pm Place: Place Moulay Hassan Artist: La Releve Gnaoua and Musiciens de Doudou N'Diaye Rose Time: 10:40pm Place: Place Moulay Hassan Artist: Christian Scott Time: 12:00pm Place: Place Moulay Hassan Artist: Maalem Hamid El Kasri Time: 11:00pm Place: Dar Loubane Arist: Maalem Abdenbi El Meknassi Time: 12:00pm Place: Dar Loubane Artist: Maalem Rachid El Hamzaoui Time: 8:30pm Place: Scene de la Plage Arist: Khalid Amrhoche, Khalid Lzoubaz, La Releve Gnaoua, Mohamed Bomzor Time: 9:35pm Place: Scene de la Plage Artist: Songhoy Blues Time: 11:30pm Place: Scene de la Plage Arist: N3Rdistan Time: 11:50pm Place: Scene de la Plage Artist: Maalem Mustapha Baqbou Time: 11:00pm Place: Borj Bab Marrakech Artist: Maalem Abdenbi El Guedari Time: 11:00pm Place: Zaouia Issaoua Place: Tarifa de Safi Time: 12:00am Place: Zaouia Issaoua Artist: Maalem Mahjoub Khalmouss

May 15th, 2016 Time: 5:00pm Place: Place Moulay Hassan Artist: Oudaden Time: 6:00pm Place: Place Moulay Hassan Artist: Maalem Mustapah Baqubou, Mohamed Derham, Nabil Khalidi, Omar Sayed  

For more information about Essaouira or the Gnaoua Festival Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

A Complete Guide, Fes Festival World Sacred Music Program 2016

Posted by Alecia Cohen on March 4, 2016 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Fes Festival 2016 Program 

The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music will take place from May 6th - 14th this year in in the imperial city of Fes. The festival was founded in 1994 by the Moroccan scholar and philanthropist Faouzi Skali and was created to showcase major musical traditions of sacred, spiritual music and world music. The current Artistic Director is Alain Webber. Each year the Fes festival celebrates artists from Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu and other faiths to perform together in a spirit of mutual respect and collaboration.

The Fes Festival is comprised of: A four-day Forum called Rencontres de Fes under the rubric "Giving Soul to Globalisation" where politicians, social activists, academics and religious leaders come together in dialogue to discuss the urgent issues of our times. These include conflict resolution, climate change, urban renewal, social justice and much more. Intimate afternoon concerts at the Dar Batha Museum and its surrounding Andalusian gardens. Art and film exhibitions, poetry readings at the Dar Bartha Museum and other locations within Fes. Sufi nights: Sufi Music rituals concerts that begin at midnight performed by Moroccan Sufi brotherhoods in the Dar Tazi gardens, in the heart of the Fes medina. In the morning, visitors can take part in seminars or round table discussions covering topics related to the theme of the festival. By attending the discussion, you can gain extra insight into the meaning of the festival.

In the afternoon, evening, and late at night, there are concerts given by performers arriving from every angle of the globe. These musicians help celebrate all the cultures and religions of the world through a multiplicity of their songs and rituals. The musical spectrum heard includes early European classical, Sufi ritual songs and trance music, Arab-Andalusian rhythms, a Bulgarian orthodox choir, Hindustani chants, Celtic sacred music, Christian Gospel, Swedish chamber choir, Pakistani Qawwali incantations, Egyptian madhi odes, flamenco-style Christian saeta, ancient Indian gwalior chants and Turkish whirling dervishes.  Traditionally, the festival’s most impressive afternoon concerts take place by the Dar Batha Museum, which is set amidst a beautiful Andalusian garden and has a backdrop of the Atlas Mountains. During the evening concerts are held at the Bab Makina and Palace Boujeloud. After the last concert of the night is over, the medina is the place to head for a continuation of a once in a life time experience. Every evening at midnight, there are free "Sufi Nights". These highly popular Sufi ritual trance performances are held at the Dar Tazi Palace gardens where Sufi brotherhoods like the Hamadcha, the Aissaoua and The Master Musicians of Jajouka perform while you relax on Berber rugs and sip mint tea.

Fes Festival World Sacred Music 2016

Fes Festival Program May 6th - 22nd, 2016

Friday, May 6th: Bab Al Makina - Opening Night Premier 21h00                                                                         A Sky full of Stars:  International Premiere   Women of myth and poetry from Sheherazade to the Queen of Sheba With women artists from Morocco, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Ethiopia, India, Lebanon, Italy and Africa, with an oriental orchestra.

Saturday, May 7th: Jnan Sbil Garden 16:30                                                                                                 Sahar Mohammadi with Ingie Women’s Qanun Ensemble – Iran & Azerbaijan Sacred Persian song Bab Al Makina: 21h00 Evening Concert                                                                                            

Durbar: Indian Night Premiere Glory of Pricnessa nd in praise of the Gods, a dazzling musical engagement between some of India's greatest Musicians Boujloud Square: 22.00   Regional Choir of Fes  |  H-Kayne  


Sunday, May 8th: Jnan Sbil Garden 16:30                                                                            

Christine Salem- Renunion Maloya revisited Bab Al Makina: 21h00 Evening Concert                                                                                          

Divas of the World: Part I - Hindi Zahra, From France and Morocco & Part 2: Oumous Sangrari, from Mali Boujloud Square:  22h00 Over Boys  |  Batoul Marouani  

Monday, May 9th: Jnan Sbil Garden 16:30                                                                                                           Officina Zoe- Italy Women's songs of love, work and war with Maria Mazzotta (voice)  and Maristella Martella (dance) Night in the Medina Part 1: Homage to India, Evening Ragas Dary Adiyel 18:00 and 20h30 Rageshri Das and Ghazal Song from Kolkota, India Sidki Mohamed Ben Youssef Cultural Complext: 19:h00 Shashank Subramaniam and Rakesh Chaurasia Masters of the Bansuri flute from Chennai and Mumbai, India Boujloud Square: Mourad Bouriki/ Lamia Zaidi Prefecture Hall, Batha The King of Ghosts:                                                                                      

Premiere - India & Morocco, Cinema/ Concert Composed by Soumik Datta, Johannes Berauer and Cormac Byrne for the film Goopy Gaven Bagha Baven by Satyajit Ray (1929)  

Tuesday, May 10th: Jnan Sbil Garden 16:30                                                                                                                      

Hawniyaz: inspired by Kurdish, Persian and Azeri traditions With Aynur (song), Kayhan Kalhor (kamantche), Salman Gambarov (piano) and Cemîl Ǫoçgirî (multi-instrumentalist) Night in the Medina Part 2: Dar Adiyel: 20h00   Yulduz Turdieva – Uzbekistan   Shash-maqâm from Bukhara Sidi Mohamed Ben Youssef Cultural Complex:  2h.00   Ensemble Dialogos – Bosnia and Herzogovina Heretic Angels: Popular Rituals and Beliefs Prefecture Hall, Batha: 21.30   OY – Switzerland & Ghana Space Diaspora Boujloud Square Participation of the French Institute in Fes: Buddha Bar  |  Omar Boutmazoukt Sidi Mohamed Ben Youssef Cultural Complex, Parvathy Baul and Mehdi Nassouli – India and Morocco, Poetry of Wandering Mystics, from Bauls to Gnawas  

Wednesday, May 11th:   

Night in the Medina III 20.00 Sidi Mohamed Ben Youssef Cultural Complex Lamar – Arab Songs from Palestine 21.30  Prefecture Hall, Batha (opposite the Batha Museum) Farida Mohammad Ali – Iraq The Voice of Maqâm 22.00 Boujloud Square Najat Atabou  |  Embassy of Pakistan 23.00 Dar Adiyel Ariana Vafadari – Iran and France Gathas: Zoroastrian Song  

Thursday, May 12th:  Jnan Sbil Garden - 16:h30                                                                                                   Agraw- Lalla Rquia Ouhmad Morocco Sacred Amazigh Song from Tiznit Riad Dar Bensouda, Qettanine 18h00 Shaikh Hassan Dyck and Muhabbat Caravan Meditation with Sufi flavours Bab Al Makina: 21h00 Evening Concert                                                                                                                            

Istanbul – Fes: Premiere – Turkey & Morocco Mevlevi whirling dervishes with the Mohammed Briouel Andalous Orchestra Boujloud Square Mahmoud Al Idrissi  |  Khalid Ali Orchestra  

Friday, May 13th: 16.30 Jnan Sbil Garden - 16:h30   Virginia Rodrigues – Brazil. Celestial Voice Bab Al Makina: 21h00 Evening Concert, Tribute to Oum Kaltoum - Egypt with the National Opera Orchestra of Cairo Boujloud Square: 22h00  Reda Taliyani  |  Abdellah Yacoubi

Saturday, May 14th: Jnan Sbil Garden - 16:h30 Yom – France The Silence of Exodus with Yom, clarinet and composition Farid D, cello Claude Tchamitchian, double bass Bijan Chemirani, zarb, daf and bendir (percussion) Bab Al Makina: 21h00 Evening Concert Samira Saïd – Morocco, A Moroccan Singing Star 22.00 Boujloud Square Marcel Khalife

For more information the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music of a Fes Tour  Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

The Moroccan Art Scene, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Posted by Alecia Cohen on January 15, 2016 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Hassan Hajjaj, Marrakech Artist

The Moroccan Contemporary Art Scene, post-independence, is much sought after and has gained popularity over the recent years given its varied mix of forward thinking and experimental painters, sculptors, fashion designers, and craftsmen. Morocco's contemporary art scene had a boost with the opening of some significant public-funded and private galleries as well as some key exhibitions showcasing Moroccan modern art abroad. Although foreign and diaspora collectors have always been important, Nadia Echiguer, Director of UK-based art dealers, Moroccan Fine Art, explains the role of a developing economy in the promotion and sale of contemporary artwork in Morocco itself. "Before, only private and public institutions were buying artworks. The trend has changed as private Moroccan collectors are showing a keen interest in art,” thanks to a booming economy that has seen an increase in the size and the wealth of the Moroccan middle class.

Mohammed Melehi, Asiliah

Reflecting the increasing domestic interest in contemporary art, two large projects opened in Rabat and Marrakech. The MMVI Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art opened in Rabat, in October 2014 with an exhibition of over 400 works by more than 150 Moroccan artists, entitled "1914-2014: One hundred years of creation." Over in Marrakech, seen by many as a more creative centre compared to Rabat, the Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Arts (MMP+) opened in September 2013 in temporary accommodation at the Badii Palace. A purpose-built venue designed by British architect Sir David Chipperfield is due to open in 2016, the same year as the 6th Marrakech Biennale (24 February - 8 May 2016).

Fatima Ettalbi, Essaouira Artists

Following Moroccan independence in 1956, many artists and intellectuals sought to claim a modern Moroccan cultural identity to banish the euro-centrism of the French colonial power or an orientalist over-emphasis on the naive or folkloric aspects of Moroccan art. At the same time, many artists could not and would not deny the influence of these more traditional arts and crafts on their work. As the swinging 60s drew on into the 1970s, despite the former colonial experience, there was much intellectual and artistic interchange between Morocco and Europe, in particular France. In addition, Moroccan artists exchanged ideas and philosophies with visiting Beat Poets (for example, in Tangiers) and international musicians and artists who passed through the country (including the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and others). Slowly, however, Moroccan artists developed an "exploratory intuition" according to Moroccan philosopher El Jabri and a "modernity" in the Moroccan artistic experience was born.

Myriam Mourabit, Casablanca Artist     

During the 1980s, these issues of collective identity became less evident as Moroccan artists gained the confidence to forge their own styles and open their horizons beyond questions of a Moroccan or Arab style. At the same time, they left behind occidental models and themes and began to explore their creativity as individuals. This desire to carve one's own niche as an artist, one who happens to be Moroccan, characterized strongly the closing decades of the 20th century. Today, at the start of the 21st century, many young Moroccan artists are experimenting with new twists on old techniques and traditions against the backdrop of greater use of modern communications technology. Key themes in this era reflect the realities of modern life for young Moroccans: immigration, globalization, urbanization and the cultural references of the past. The Moroccan art scene has a number of key creative centers. Many artists have emerged from the large conurbations of Casablanca or Marrakech or the traditional heartland of Moroccan crafts, Fes. However, Tetouan - with its Institute of Fine Arts - and Essaouira - with its nexus of auto-didactic artists are two particular poles.

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about the Moroccan Art Scene or a Morocco Art Private Tour Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

The Essaouira 12th Annual Andalusian Music Festival

Posted by Alecia Cohen on October 23, 2015 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

12th Annual Essaouira Andalusian Festival

Each year Essaouira hosts the Andalusian Atlantic Music Festival (The Festival des Andalousies Atlantique) which pays homage to great musicians and the Andalusian legacy of hispano-Moroccan traditions in the Magreb. Celebrating the friendship and shared history between Spain and Morocco the 12th Annual Andalusian Festival of Essaouira will take place from October 29th - 31st, 2015. Founded in 1992 by Mr. Andre Azoulay, a Senior adviser to King Mohammed VI of Morocco, the Andalusian Atlantic Music Festival celebrates the diverse heritage of Moroccans and the town of Essaouira's historical co existence of Jews, Berbers, Spaniards, Muslims and Christians who contributed in weaving together a multicultural and rich artistic coastal town. The 12th Andalusian Atlantic Music Festival features concerts along with round table discussions and debates led by academics and professionals in the artistic field as to contribute the importance of cultural diversity.

Compania de Danza Flamenco, 12th Annual Essaouira Andalusian Festival

The schedule for Essaouira 12th Andalusian Atlantic Music Festival from October 29th - 31st, 2015 is featured here:

Thursday, October 29, 2015 Salle Omnisport 21h: Compania de Danza Flamenca, a spectacle of Flamenco Dance and Music 22h: Joseph and Daniel Afriat, Jacob "Coco " Tordjman, Abdelhak El Kaabe Is and Houssam Guinea, a concert of the Intimate connection between Jews and Muslims

Friday, October 30, 2015 Dar Souiri 10h: Projection of the court-feature film "Ya lhmama" (the dove) a collaboration with the pianist Amit Hai Cohen 10h30 : Forum: "An Essaouira Culture Banquet of sharing " 15 h30 : Concert with Moroccan singer, Benjamin Bouzaglo 16h30 : The Orchestra of Rachid Ouchehad and the brothers Abdellaoui, a concert of Chgouri after midnight featuring Spiritual Music Hall Omnisport 21h: Malhoun Music Conservatory and Andalusian Musical interpretations by Nabyla Maan Zaineb Afailal and Amine Debbi and musicians 21h50 : Concert with the Singer, Sanaa Marahati. It will resume the works of popular Salim Halali with the Orchestra Shabab Alwatan Organization Al Andalous

Benjamin Bouzaglo, 12th Annual Essaouira Andalusian Festival

Saturday, October 31, 2015 Hotel Mgallery the Medina 10h Projection of the film "Aida" of Driss Mrini on the relationship Judeo-Muslim connections in Morocco. Dar Souiri 16h: Innovative Concert for new arrangements and the traditional repertoire of Arabo-andalusian music 17h: Concert with the female ensemble Tangerois Arij after midnight: a concert of Spiritual Music Hall Omnisport 21h: Festival finale with the Orchestra Shabab Al Watan Organization Al Andalous, and the voice of Benjamin Bouzaglo, brothers Afriat and Jacob Tordjman. They will be joined by Sanaa Marahati and Zainab Afailal for the final concert

For more information about the 12th Andalusian Atlantic Music Festival or Essaouira Private Tours

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Opening Night at The 21st Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

Posted by Alecia Cohen on May 24, 2015 at 4:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Fes Festival of Sacred Music, Opening Night - Photo by Lynn Sheppard

Each year, the holy and ancient city of Fes, Morocco is host to the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music. This festival brings together sacred and world music from many different cultural, religious and musical traditions. This year's theme, "Fes: An African Reflection" recalls how Fes was once the intellectual, cultural, spiritual and commercial hub of an Empire which traded and connected with its neighbors across mountains and deserts. The opening night of the festival, held on May 22nd at the magnificent Bab Makina venue, wowed the audience as they were taken across the borders of ancient empires to meet these fascinating peoples and learn their customs. As the daylight dimmed and the swifts ceased circling over the rooftops of Old Fes, the last of the VIPs took their seats at the front of a sell-out venue for the opening concert of the 21st Fes Festival of Sacred Music. HRH Princess Lalla Selma - representing King Mohammed VI, who is patron of the Festival - arrived in a huddle of black-suited security in a stunning white and gold caftan, to a patter of applause and a burst of flashbulbs. Once the audience was settled, the welcome address was delivered in Arabic, English and French and our journey - in the footsteps of Leo Africanus (Hassan el Wazzan, 16th century diplomat, traveler and chronicler of Africa) - took us across North and West Africa, from tribe to tribe and tradition to tradition in a full circle until we returned back to the holy city of Fes.

21st Annual Fes Festival of Sacred Music, Opening Night - Photo by Lynn Sheppard

This year's opening night -for the 21st edition - was a true spectacle. As we journeyed southward, over 100 artists gave us a glimpse of the musical and cultural traditions along the way: from the Amazigh fables of the Moroccan mountains, to the Andalusian traditions of Fes. From the griot heritage of West Africa to the Simb Lion dance of Senegal. With each step along the journey, the backdrop - which began with Fes famous Bab Boujeloud gate projected on the walls of the Bab Makina - changed from Savannah to desert camp, to palm oasis and back to imperial city. Moroccan oud master, Driss al Maloumi, opened the show with an Amazigh fable about a sad moon under a backdrop of a full moon and a starry sky. Then to follow, Amazigh songstress, Chérifa greeted the crowd.  A real highlight was the Masks of the Moon Bwaba Ritual, the group performing for the first time outside their native Burkina Faso. Their startling black and white costumes and the haunting melody of the percussion accompanied an incredibly energetic and ritualistic dance. On a gentler note, Malian Ballaké Sissoko, gave the audience a real treat as he appeared on stage with no less than 10 koras, of the Kora Ensemble of Bamako. After a whistle stop tour of Africa, we arrived with Hassan al Wazzan back in Fez, at the tomb of Sidi Ahmed Tijani, founder of the Tijani Sufi brotherhood. The evening concluded with the Tijani brotherhood singing a song familiar to all the Fassi (Fes natives) in the audience. The opening event certainly got the Fes Sacred Music Festival off to an impressive and inspiring start. Many of the artists present will appear at over 50 concerts and events over the 9 days of the festival until 30 May 2015. Written by Lynn Sheppard  Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Hindi Zahra Rocks the Essaouira Gnaoua Festival

Posted by Alecia Cohen on May 17, 2015 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Hindi Zahra, Gnaoua Festival 2015, By Lynn Sheppard

The 18th Annual Gnaoua Music Festival took place in Essaouira, on Morocco's Atlantic Coast from May 14th -17th. Every year, the festival showcases the best of Moroccan Gnaoua musicians and a wide array of Gnaoua and world music. Gnaoua is a musical genre based in Sufi Islamic culture with its roots in sub-Saharan Africa. Moroccan and international artists are also invited to perform, often, in unique fusion concerts alongside Gnaoua groups. One of the most anticipated World Music acts at this year's festival was Hindi Zahra, a Moroccan-born vocalist who played Essaouira for the first time. Born in Morocco in 1979, Hindi Zahra (her stage name is an inversion of her real name) released her first album, Handmade, in 2010 to critical acclaim, winning various awards in France, where she has been based since 1993. Hindi Zahra sings principally in the unusual combination of the Berber language of Morocco and in English. In contrast to her Moroccan linguistic heritage, her musical heritage is an international mélange of folk, rock, jazz, soul and blues, as well as African, Spanish and Latin influences. The timbre of her voice and the fluidity of her movement reveal her North African roots.

Hindi Zahra, 18th Annual Gnaoua Festival, by Lynn Sheppard

In Essaouira, the audience was treated to an early release of tracks from Hindi's new album, Homeland, released in April 2015, as well as some popular favourites from her back catalogue. She strutted on stage, channelling a rock goddess persona, to open with To The Forces, a song, which celebrates the mountain Berbers of Morocco, strong and proud, living at one with nature, despite conditions of extreme poverty. The song is the opening track from Homeland, an album that was largely written in Marrakech, at the end of the promotional tour for Handmade. At this time, Hindi says, she was exhausted after 400 gigs in 2.5 years.She shut herself in a traditional riad (townhouse) with only an internet connection and her own creativity. The result is Homeland, an album conceived in and inspired by Morocco.

After a night of powerful funk, fusion, jazz and Gnaoua music from the likes of Gnaoua rock star, Maalem Omar Hayat and Nigerian Afro Beat drummer, Tony Allen, Hindi Zahra had a challenge ahead of her to maintain the energy of the night's concerts and capture the attention of the Essaouira audience. She not only held her own, she rocked the main stage. Her lilting voice recalls Joni Mitchell or Norah Jones, but these comparisons belie her rock star presence, which is far larger than her petite frame would suggest. The locals were enthused by her Berber lyrics and she was clearly excited to be finally playing at Essaouira with such a wealth of new material. The appeal of Hindi Zahra is in the way she embodies both fragility and strength and in the sheer diversity of her songs, which she writes herself. Her voice and her energy transform themselves effortlessly from the Latin rhythms of her big hit from her first album, Beautiful Tango, through the jazzy tones of Imik Si Mik from the same album and sung mainly in Berber, to Stand Up (from Homeland), which in Essaouira she performed to a ska/reggae arrangement with Mehdi Nassouli of Agadir. In Any Story, from the new album, Hindi Zahra's voice haunts with a mystery that suggests an artist more experienced and accomplished than her years. Hindi Zahra's albums are available to download on I-tunes and on her website directly.

Written by Lynn Sheppard  Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about the Essaouira Gnaoua Festival Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Essaouira's 18th Annual Gnaoua Music Festival May 2015

Posted by Alecia Cohen on April 21, 2015 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Essaouira 18th Annual Gnaoua Festival, May 2015

   Every year, the sun-bleached, windswept city of Essaouira on Morocco's Atlantic coast plays host to a festival of Gnaoua and World Music. Normally it is held in June, but this year's 18th edition will take place - like many of the main Moroccan music festivals - in May, to avoid a clash with the holy month of Ramadan. The dates for this year's event are 14-17 May 2015. The principal feature of the festival is the celebration of Gnaoua music and rituals.

The Gnaoua movement is a form of Islamic Sufism. The roots of Gnaoua (or Gnawa) lie in sub-Saharan Africa and reflect pre-Islamic traditions. Successive Moorish sultans brought African slaves to Morocco and their traditions became integrated into Islamic Sufism.

Gnaoui (as practioners are known), like other Sufis, are organized into brotherhoods gathered around a Master, or maalem. These brotherhoods are based in a zawiya - a center of religious teaching, healing and practice found in towns and cities across Morocco. Sufis are known for their communion with God (Allah) through rituals such as music or dancing based on repetitive rhythms, known as samaa. The gnaoua hold spiritual events known as a lila, where the objective is for participants to reach a trance-like state of ecstasy to reach deeper spiritual knowledge. The lila rhythms and rituals are said to call up ancestral spirits to drive out evil and cure ills.

A typical instrument of the gnaoua is the gimbri, a three stringed bass lute covered in camel skin. The skin creates a deep reverberation, creating the soul-stirring basis of gnaoua music. The maalem typically plays the gimbri seated, singing the verse of a song (typically praising Allah or venerating a gnaoua saint). A chorus line of young adherents respond to his call while playing a percussive rhythm on the krakeb, iron castanets said to echo the sound of the slaves' chains. As their clackety-clack beats hasten, the rhythm reaches a crescendo and Gnaoui may enter a trace or break ranks to demonstrate acrobatic dancing and whirling. At the Gnaoua Festival in Essaouira, the audience has an opportunity to see both the brightly-colored, energetic spectacle of Gnaoua groups performing on large open-air stages (on Place Moulay Hassan and near the beach) as well as at more intimate concerts which simulate some of the atmosphere of a lila in smaller venues such as Dar Souiri or a zawiya.

The best venue for the late night, smaller, concerts is the Borj Bab Marrakech. Lying on rugs and cushions under the stars, within earshot of the waves crashing on the beach and with seagulls calling and swooping overhead, a special atmosphere is created for some of the best known artists on the program. As well as offering the opportunity to see the best of local Swiri gnaoua maalems and their groups, such as Tyour Gnaoua with Maalem Abdeslam Alikane, brothers Maalem Mokhtar and Maalem Mahmoud Guinea or Gnaoua rockstar Omar Hayat, the festival also an insight into the full diversity of Moroccan Sufi music - such as the more traditional and contemplative style of the Hmadcha of Essaouira; the drum-led beats of the Issaoua brotherhood from Fes, or the modern fusion style of Maalem Hamid el Kasri from Rabat. The festival program is interspersed with performances by international artists.

At the end of each evening on the main stage is the highlight - a fusion concert between one of these invited musicians and a Moroccan Sufi group. These spectacles are remarkable not only in their combination of musical genres and traditions, but also in the collaboration between artists of very different spiritual, religious and cultural traditions. Invited guests this year include Afrobeat veteran, Nigerian drummer Tony Allen; Guadeloupian percussionist, Sonny Troupé; the latter's sometime collaborator, US jazz saxophonist and flautist Kenny Garrett, and long-standing Gnaoua Festival supporter and collaborator, Franco-Algerian drummer Karim Ziad. Those seeking a sample of Morocco's diverse modern music scene, will want to catch Darga, a band from Casablanca playing a fusion of gnaoua, traditional and Western styles on the beach stage or Hindi Zahra, who has been compared to Norah Jones and Patti Smith, on the main stage.

The Festival opens with a spectacular parade of giant marionettes and all the participating Sufi groups on the Thursday afternoon. Seek out a position early on the main street through the medina from Bab Doukkala and get your camera in position! Alongside the main concert program are also events such as the Forum - a seminar series, this year about African Women - and the Arbre à Palabre discussions held at the French Institute. This year there will be a smaller stage with afternoon concerts at Bab el Minzeh near the port. The open air concerts (on Place Moulay Hassan, at Bab el Minzeh and at the beach) are all free, although they can get crowded at night. VIP passes for an enclosed area near the stage can be purchased on site. The intimate concerts are ticketed (for example, concerts on the roof of the Borj Bab Marrakech at 250 dirhams) and places are limited. Essaouira's range of festivals throughout the year (such as the Alizés Festival in April and the Andalusian Festival in the Fall) highlight the melting pot of musical and cultural influences that is Morocco, but the Gnaoua World Music Festival is unparalleled in its showcasing of gnaoua music in its original form as well as in fusion with a range of world music styles. If you are in Morocco this May, don't miss it!

 For more information about Essaouira's 18th Annual Gnaoua Festival or an Essaouira Tour Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

The Moroccan Music Scene, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Posted by Alecia Cohen on March 25, 2015 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Gnaoua Festival, Essaouira Place du marché aux Grainsa

On Marrakech’s Djemaa El Fna Square amongst the orange juice stalls and story tellers you will find stalls with CD’s testifying to the popularity and importance of Morocco’s contemporary music scene which began with the accession of King Mohammed VI in 1999 when greater liberalization of musical genre especially for young people who sought music which reflected their aspirations was gradually phased in and supported with musical festivals organized with royal support and sponsorship like the annual Mazawine Music Festival in Rabat, The Gnawa Festival in Essaouria and the World Sacred Music Festival in Fez.

Moroccan TV and radio channels also play an important role with live performances. The Moroccan contemporary music scene and its festivals have successfully fused elements of its ancient Berber musical traditions with modern music such as Chaabi, Hiphop and Rai and Rap. Traditional Berber folk village music called Ahwash, is very much alive and is on display in July each year at the National Festival of Popular Arts at the Badii Palace in Marrakech. The music performed by professional musicians called Raiss includes comedy and dances in their performances.

Ouarzazate Festival Hadous Musicians

Two famous traditional musical bands are Bachir Attar’s Master Musicians of Jajouka who originally met with Brian Jones and the Rolling Stones in 1969 and recorded with them. Their music celebrates the pagan rites centered on the figure of Boujeloud who has been likened to Pan. They perform regular concerts in Morocco and abroad including the United States and Germany playing with international musicians. They recently featured in Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown “ program on CNN. The other traditional band is the Daqqa of Marrakech who perform a ritual dance for the religious festival of Ashura. Chaabi is a popular music descended from Moroccan folk music. Originally performed in markets, it is now performed during celebrations or meetings. Chaabi songs end with a swift rhythmic section and syncopated clapping. Modern instruments like electric guitars and buzuks are also used as well as lutes and a drum.

Andalusian classical music called Al Ala was brought to Morocco following the Reconquista in Spain when Muslims and Jews were forced to leave. It is an urban form of music which is highly popular and performed with large orchestras frequently on TV and radio. Jewish musicians had a profound influence on Al Ala.

Gnawa was brought to Morocco by Sub-Saharan Africans and later became part of the Moroccan tradition. Much of the modern fusion draws on Gnawa and the annual Essaouira Gnawa Festival is now broadening its musical performances to include a more contemporary repertoire. Classical Malhum which translates as “gift” or “inspiration” is Arabic in origin and is derived from Sufi inspired Arabic Andalusian poetry.

Sufi Brotherhoods (tarikas) are widespread in Morocco, and music is an integral part of their spiritual tradition. The purpose is to induce a trance state which inspires mystical ecstasy. Leading Sufi Brotherhoods include the Derkoua, Hamadasha, Aissoua and the Jilala. Modern music includes Rai which is associated with Algeria in the international music scene, but Morocco has produced its own stars lincluding Cheb Mimoun and Hanino. Other genre include Hiphop, Electronica and Fusion, which draws on Gnawa, Jazz and heavy metal. Casablanca is a major center for contemporary Moroccan music. Pirating remains a concern for Moroccan musicians as it is difficult to establish copyright for music performances and CD’s, although Morocco has an intellectual property rights law. In Marrakech an English music producer Nick Wilde set up Marrakchi Records a record label, music publishing and artist management company to support young Moroccan musicians. Marrakchi Records provides a management service for Moroccan musicians and promotes them thus helping to establish them in the fast moving contemporary Moroccan music scene. It covers all genres from Rock, Hiphop, Electronic,   gnawa , blues and African music. Artists who have successfully produced albums with Marrakchi Records include Caravane, Blue Medina, DJ Haze, Mwanssa, Chaabi and Nisrine. The Moroccan Music scene is vast and growing along with it's new pop up festivals and summer venues.

For more information about the Moroccan Music Scene or Festivals in Morocco 

For more information about the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Morocco Books, What to Read Before You Go

Posted by Alecia Cohen on March 2, 2015 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Lords of the Atlas, By Gavin Maxwell

Travel Exploration Offers a Hand Curated and Select Picks of Morocco Books to read before you go. The Books to Read before you visit Morocco offer an insight into the country's history, culture and traditions. Preparing an exciting Reading list of Morocco Books ranging from History to  Fiction and Non Fiction as well as Design & Decor is part of the the holiday planning process. To better understand Morocco's traditions carve out time to list to Moroccan Music and watch Moroccan Films. From Galvin Maxwell's account of the rise and fall of the House of Glaoui to Tahir Shah's story of moving his family to  Casablanca and Paul Bowles, Spider's House that weaves a web through the ancient medina of Fes Travel Exploration's Reading List is a must for your Morocco adventure.

READING LIST (Available on Amazon.com & Barnes & Noble.com)

HISTORY  (Available on Amazon.com & Barnes & Noble.com)

  • Morocco That Was – By  Water Harris
  • Morocco Since 1830  –  By C.R. Pennell
  • Lords of the Atlas: The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua  –  By Gavin Maxwell
  • The Conquest of Morocco – By Douglass Porch

FICTION & NON- FICTION  

  • Culture & Customs in Morocco – By Raphael Njoku
  • In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams – By Tahir Shah
  • The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca – By Tahir Shah
  • The Spiders House – By Paul Bowles
  • The Sheltering Sky – By Paul Bowles (Book & Film)
  • Let It Come Down – By Paul Bowles
  • The Last Storytellers: Tales from the Heart of Morocco –  By Richard Hamilton
  • Their Heads are Green & Their Hands are Blue – By Paul Bowles
  • Dreams of Trespass: Tales of A Harem –  By Fatima Mernissi
  • Berber Odes: Poetry from the Mountains of Morocco – By Michael Peyron
  • The Hamadsha: A Studio of Moroccan Ethnopsychiatry
  • A House in Fes –  By Susannah Clarke
  • For Bread Alone – By Mohammed Choukri
  • The Last Storytellers: Tales from the Heart of Morocco – Richard Hamilton
  • The Mountains Look on Marrakech – Hamish Brown
  • The Exile – By Abdullah Laroui
  • The Game of Forgetting - By Mohammed Berrada
  • Hideous Kinki – By Esther Freud
  • Leaving Tangier - By Tahar Ben Jelloun
  • The Red City – By Barnaby Rogerson & Stephen Lavington
  • Shadows of Marrakech - By Philip Brebner

  DESIGN & DÉCOR 

  • Living in Morocco: (German Edition) – By Barbara Stoeltie
  • Moroccan Interiors  – By Lisa Lovatt-Smith
  • Living in Morocco from Casablanca to Marrakesh – By Lisl Dennis and Landt Dennis
  • New Moroccan Style: The Art of Sensual Living – By Susan Sully
  • Moroccan Textile Embroidery – By Isabelle Denamur
  • Berber Carpets of Morocco. The Symbols. Origina and Meaning By Bruno Barbatti
  • Imazighen: The Vanishing Traditions of Berber Women – By Margaret Courtney-Clarke and Geraldine Brooks

  MOROCCAN MUSIC  (Available on Amazon.com or I-Tunes Apple Store)

  • Andalusian Music from Fes By Abdelkrim Rais
  • Andalusian Music from Tangier By Cheik Ahmed Zaitouni
  • Jilala: Sufi Trance Music from Morocco By Jilala
  • Music of Islam 5: Aissaoua Sufi Ceremony By Music of Islam
  • Under the Moroccan Sky  – Various Artists
  • B’ismillah – Fes Festival of World Music
  • Berber Blues By Cherifa
  • The Master Musicians of Jajouka Featuring Bachir Attar
  • The Master Musicians of Jajouka – Jajouka Between the Mountains
  • Baptism of Solitude – By Paul Bowles and Bill Laswell (Spoken Word)
  • Arabic Groove – Putumayo World Music
  • Rough Guide to North African Café
  • Rough Guide to Arabic Café
  • Gift of the Gnaoua – Hassan Hakmoun & Adam Rudolph
  • Berber Music from the High Atlas & Anti-Atlas

FILMS SHOT IN MOROCCO

  • Othelle (Orson Welles)
  • Flight to Tangier  (Charles Marquis Warren)
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much, starring * James Stewart
  • Lawrence of Arabia, started Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif
  • The Jewel of the Nile, Directed by Lewis Teague, starred Michael Douglas
  • Kundun, directed by Martin Scorsese
  • Hideous Kinky (Marrakech Express)
  • Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott, starred Russell Crowe
  • Rules of Engagement, directed by William Friedkin, starred Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson and Guy Pearce

  • For more information about the Morocco Books to Read or a Morocco TourMorocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate
  • Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
    Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Morocco 2015 Festival Guide, Morocco Private Tours

Posted by Alecia Cohen on January 27, 2015 at 8:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Festivals Morocco, Sufi Music Fes

Morocco has festivals all year round which showcase the best of local culture, traditions and landscape. In addition, its world famous music festivals attract international artists of every genre. Planning your trip to Morocco around a festival is a great way to see the country and indulge in some culture at the same time.

Here are some festival highlights for 2015 that serve as a wonderful guide for Morocco Travelers.

Rose Festival: May 2015

If you travel to Morocco in May, we recommend you take in the Rose Festival in Kelaa M'Gouna. Hidden in the spectacular Dades Valley, the so-called Valley of Roses is world famous for the Damask Rose first brought here in the 1930s by the French. Today, every rose derivative imaginable for cosmetic, decorative or culinary use is produced in the valley. The festival celebrates the sweetly perfumed harvest as well as local rural life and Berber traditions. During the 3-day festival, a Rose Queen is elected and features in a cavalcade of floats through the valley. Your trip in this region could also take in kayaking on the rivers full of snowmelt, a night in an ancient fort along the 'Route of 1000 Kasbahs' or a trip into the Sahara Desert.

Gnaoua Festival, Essaouira Place du marché aux Grains  

Essaouira Gnaoua World Music Festival: 14-17 May 2015

The 18th edition of the Essaouira Gnaoua World Music Festival takes place earlier than usual to avoid a clash with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and other summer festivals. One of Morocco's most popular festivals, it showcases gnaoua music, which came to Morocco with sub-Saharan African slaves to the Sultans. It is characterised by the deep bass twang of the gimbri (a three-stringed lute stretched with animal skin to provide a resonating sound), the rhythmic clatter of krakeb castanets and the call and response of the maalem (master) and his troupe of brightly costumed adherents. Gnaoua music typifies Moroccan sufism; the worship of Allah through music, dance and trance. As well as offering the audience a rare opportunity to see gnaoua groups outside their zawiyas (mosque-like buildings where they practice) on the big stage, the festival also features unique fusion concerts between the gnaoua groups and the international artists invited to participate. World music stars who have played in Essaouira include Cheb Khaled, Salif Keita, Toumani Diabate and Orchestre National de Barbés. Main stage concerts are free; more intimate gigs in historical buildings of the UNESCO World Heritage listed medina cost around US$10. Essaouira is just 2.5 hours from Marrakech and a visit to the festival is easily combined with a longer stay or tour of South Morocco.

Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

Fes Sacred Music Festival: 22-30 May 2015

Fes is Morocco's spiritual heart and this year will mark the 21st edition of the Sacred Music Festival. The 2015 theme is 'Fes in the mirror of Africa.' As well as being an opportunity to experience sufi music from around the Islamic world in a range of stunning venues, the festival audience also has a chance to see musicians and artists of other spiritual traditions. Performances have included Turkish Whirling Dervishes, Celtic sacred music, Christian Gospel and flamenco. Previous international guests in Fes have included Patti Smith, Youssou N’Dour, Johnny Clegg and Altan. Tickets can be purchased for the larger concerts, but many events are free. Every evening, Sufi Nights concerts are held the gardens of Dar Tazi, and Bab Boujloud, one of the city’s main gates, is a venue for free evening performances. The gardens of the Musée Batha host concerts and art exhibitions reflecting the festival theme, which changes each year. Fes is an inspirational city, particularly for musicians and other creatives and a trip timed with the Sacred Music Festival is a once in a lifetime opportunity!

Mawazine: 29 May - 6 June 2015

Without a doubt Morocco's biggest music festival, Mawazine is held under the strapline 'Rhythms of the World' every year in the capital, Rabat. It offers perhaps the widest line-up of all the Moroccan music festivals, featuring local favorites, big names from the rock, RnB and pop genres and also showcasing young Moroccan talent through the 'Generation Mawazine' competition. Typically, over nine days, the festival hosts over 1500 artists from around the world in more than 125 shows spread over seven sites. Attendance is usually in excess of 2 million with a TV audience of around 30 million viewers in 2013. International stars who have graced Rabat's stages include Justin Timberlake, Kool & the Gang, Rihanna, Shakira, Ricky Martin and Jason Derulo. Maroon 5 have already been confirmed as part of the 2015 line-up. Rabat is easily reached from Casablanca with its international airport and either city is the perfect starting or end point for a tour of Morocco's imperial cities.

Marrakech Popular Arts Festival: July 2015

Marrakech's main square, Place Jmaa el Fna, may seem like a street art festival year round. However, this ever-vibrant city holds a festival dedicated to popular arts every summer and this year it is likely to attract large audiences as it coincides with Ramadan - a time when life is lived through the night and families take to the streets in the evening. Centered around the el-Badi Palace in the south of the medina, the festival features outdoor performers from storytellers to actors to acrobats. A fantasia (an impressive display of Arabian horsemanship) takes place in a field near the palace every night.

Timitar Berber Music Festival, Agadir T

Timitar: 22-25 July 2015

A relative newcomer to Morocco's music festival calendar, Timitar - held over a weekend in Agadir every summer - was originally conceived as a showcase for local Berber musical talent. It is still the best opportunity to see the full breadth of Moroccan Berber traditional music - from the Souss Plains to the High Atlas Mountains; from the northern Rif to the Sahara desert. However, it is also a chance to see world music stars, particularly from the francophone regions of Europe and Africa. Previous international artists at Timitar include Alpha Blondy and US gospel rock stars, the Campbell Brothers. Agadir enjoys some of the best sunshine and sandy beaches Morocco has to offer and is a great base for a family summer holiday, a watersports adventure or for exploring the rugged Atlantic Coast.

Tanjazz: 9-13 September 2015

The Tangiers International Jazz Festival will celebrate its 16th run this year. The programme generally features a broad line-up of jazz genres, but given the 2015 theme of 'Jazz of the five continents,' we can perhaps expect even greater emphasis on the African roots of jazz and modern African interpretations of the jazz style. Previous acts at Tanjazz have included Omar Sosa from Cuba, British flamenco guitarist Craig Sutton and local Tangiers native gnaoua/jazz cross-over outfit, Gnawa Express. The former international city of Tangiers is many travellers' entry point to the Kingdom of Morocco and a great starting point for a tour of Northern Morocco and the Imperial Cities.

Atlantic Andalucía Festival: October/November 2015

Essaouira's annual homage to the music and cultural traditions of Al Andalus is held every fall in this port city on Morocco's Atlantic Coast. Featuring artists from Morocco, Algeria, France and the Middle East, the festival perpetuates traditions which came to Morocco after Jews and Muslims were expelled from Spain at the end of the 15th century. The peaceful and rich religious, cultural and intellectual exchanges which had flourished on the Iberian Peninsula under Moorish rule were continued and refined in cities such as Tangiers, Fes and Essaouira, where large populations of Jews settled and prospered. Essaouira now has its own conservatory dedicated to the preservation of these traditions and the passing of the knowledge and techniques to younger generations. Please note that festival dates may change considerably to avoid a clash with Ramadan (around 18 June - 17 July 2015). While every effort has been made to verify the dates given here, please double check before your reserve your flights!

Written by Lynn Sheppard  Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about the Morocco's Festivals or Moroccan Music Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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