Thousands of Moroccan rai fans gathered from Thursday through Saturday (July 25th) for a three-day international music event in Oujda, the capital of Morocco's Oriental region. Big-name Maghreb rai singers Rachid Berriah, Bilal, Reda Taliani, Cheba Zehouania, Mohamed Lamine and others captivated large audiences of dedicated rai enthusiasts.
The event, which featured both traditional Moroccan folk music and modern songs, aimed to bring together international rai stars and also establish a reputation as one of Morocco's top arts spectaculars, festival director Farid Chourak told Magharebia.
"It's a landmark event for musicians," said frequent participant Rachid Berriah. The well-known artist said the Oujda international festival was an opportunity for singers to meet and promote rai music.
Mohamed Lamine agreed, saying that he felt fortunate to be taking part in such a high-profile event alongside so many established singers.
The festival was founded in 2007 to help rai music take hold in the region and open it up to the influence of other musical genres. "We're trying to reflect the plural heritage of Morocco by opening up the musical culture of the Oriental Region," organisers explained.
The Oujda rai celebration has proved to be a financial boon to the region.
"The festival puts the spotlight on our city's development and boosts tourism and local investment," noted local teacher Nadia Hajri.
High-calibre performers lit up the evenings during the festival. The elegant Latifa Raafat, a first-time participant to the festival, got the event under way with her well-known songs. The audience sang along in unison.
"The event has attracted more than 700,000 people. That's a dream for any artist," Raafat said with joy. To the delight of spectators, Raafat sang a duet with Lamine that blended modern Moroccan music with rai.
Ahmed, a young IT worker from Nador, said the event could not be missed, as it was an opportunity to come face-to-face with rai musicians.
"Rai is best enjoyed live," he said, dancing along to Lamine's music.
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The Tunisian coastal resort of Tabarka will host international reggae, ethno jazz, electro, latino, rock and funk musicians for a series of open-air concerts from July 10th-19th, local press reported on Thursday (June 18th). Tabarka Jazz Festival performers will include Alpha Blondie, Al Di Meola, Boi Akih and Billy Cobham.
If you haven’t heard the swirling, diverse musical landscape of BLK JKS, drop what you’re doing and throw some of their tunes on your favorite music player, ASAP. Pronounced like “Black Jacks,” this four-piece band from Johannesburg, South Africa is unlike any rock band to come along in recent memory. Although they’re drawing comparisons to bands like TV on the Radio and Vampire Weekend, those really are just reference points. Make no mistake, BLK JKS are fiercely their own musical force.
Rightfully so, too. Guitarist Mpumi Mcata simultaneously creates haunting, echoing effects as well as explosive, energetic solos. Mystery’s first and self-titled track is a perfect example. Imagine a modern-day Jimi Hendrix raised on a steady diet of Sonic Youthavant-garde exploration.
Mystery’s second track Lakeside shows off the dub-flavored percussion work of drummer Tshepang Ramoba to outstanding effect. Anchored by bassist Molefi Makananise and singer Lindani Buthelezi, BLK JKS’ music floats along in a colorful blend of truly global flavors. It manages to be unpredictable, cascading off in a number of unusual directions, but never unaccessable. Summertime, for example, is certainly a reggae-tinged tune but simply calling it “reggae” doesn’t do it justice. For every influence BLK JKS bring to the table, they take that starting point and expand upon it until all the boring, predictable traits have been exorcised and we’re left with only a hint of the familiar to loosely ground us. Meanwhile, like any good artist is supposed to, a whole new musical landscape has been built on that foundation, and we are left to explore this strange, new musical path at our own risk.
BLK JKS’ music is both challenging and thoughtful at times. There’s a certain ponderous musing to be found in most of the lyrics, which are predominately in English (”All the wise men ’round the world don’t know the answers…”). There’s even some straight-up dark shit (”Sweet summertime, burning cancer in my skin…”). Still, there’s a certain energy that penetrates through the dark, obtuse subject matter. BLK JKS’ instrumentation confronts its lyrical demons in such a way that the listener doesn’t get bogged down in the melancholy. Rather, you’re able to confront it and move on thanks to the exotic and alluring song structures.
The band is set to release their full-length debut After Robots on September 8th through Secretly Canadian. For the recording of the album, the band traded the hot and hazy South African summer for the indifferent midwest American winter of Bloomington, Indiana. Brandon Curtis of The Secret Machines joined the band at the controls of the “Hypnotic Brass Ensemble” which will appear on a number of the tracks providing “the swagger of aggressive horn stabs.” Molalatladi is our first taste of After Robots and if this is any indication of the album as a whole, it’s safe to say we can expect big things from this band in the immediate future. Take a listen courtesy of the band’s official blog and catch the band hitting up some festivals in the UK and Germany later this summer.
For five days, the Jazz au Chellah festival drew lovers of the free-form musical style to the Moroccan capital. Event organisers hope the event serves as a vehicle for dialogue between cultures.
The Jazz au Chellah festival closed in a blaze of glory on Monday (June 15th), with leading Scandinavian group JazzKamikaze and Finnish trio PLOP thrilling the audience in the capital city.
Over five days, hundreds of music-lovers came to enjoy the evening concerts as part of the event, which has become one of Rabat's premier annual attractions. It draws fans both young and old from towns across Morocco. The 1,000-seat Chellah stadium could not hold all the fans of this musical style, which has captivated urban Moroccans for decades.
Rabat is not the only place where this style of music is celebrated – Tangier and Casablanca will also welcome jazz musicians of various kinds later this year.
The festival is the longest-established and has built itself a world reputation over the years. Organised by the European Commission Delegation to Morocco, in partnership with the culture ministry, the event celebrated its fourteenth year in 2009. From June 11th-15th, the event brought together some 40 artists from 14 European countries, who met up with Moroccan musicians of all kinds.
Based on the principle of interaction between European and Moroccan cultures, "Jazz au Chellah" capitalises on the freedom of jazz to lay the foundations for a culture of dialogue, the organisers said.
The festival's artistic director and musician Majid Bekkas Bekkas said that the watchword this year was cross-pollination between artists, to help sweep away prejudice. "It’s better for us to forget our received ideas and take a generous dose of Chellah Jazz to go far beyond conventions and fashions, and instead to discover a new way of sharing music," he said.
Bruno Dethomas, head of the EC delegation in Morocco, said it is possible through musical dialogue to achieve greater closeness between peoples and to counter prejudice.
Each evening's concert drew a large audience. The opening event was headlined by legendary Spanish-Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, known for his synthesis of jazz and the musical outpourings of the Afro-Cuban diaspora.
A strong presence by Amazigh cultural figures was the biggest innovation this year, with artists such as percussionist Khalid El Berkaoui and Driss El Maaloumi.
The number of young people drawn to the performances was notable.
"Over the past four years I've become used to this annual event," said 17-year-old Nassim, who attended with his mother and three of his friends. "It's a real opportunity for young people, especially as the tickets are so affordable for students. It's a good thing the festival comes after the baccalaureate examinations."
Some 500 international salsa artists will participate in Tunisia's first International Salsa Congress, set to run June 18th-20th in Hammamet, Tunisia Online reported on Thursday (June 11th). The event will promote artistic and cultural exchanges between salsa music and dance fans. Dance classes will be among 32 different workshops open to the public.
Due to some technical problems, the live performance by Vose didn't go as smoothly as planned. This was my first time having a full, non-acoustic band play live on the air and while the band sounded great, the sound over the air was messy. So, no live recording for the download. The Bonnaroo 2009 Artists Set featured album tracks by artists appearing at this year's Bonnaroo Music Festival.
The 15th edition of the World Sacred Music Festival opens on Friday (May 29th) in Morocco's spiritual capital of Fez, MAP reported. Music and dance performances include Moroccan Sufi chants, Pakistani qawwali, American gospel and soul, Egyptian madhi, Christian saeta, Iranian percussion, Indian gwalior chants and Turkish dervishes. The festival, which will run through June 6th, also offers conferences, art exhibits and a city-wide fair.
Tune in next show when I'll have Allentown, PA-based hard rock/grunge band Vose in the studio for a live interview and performance. Plus, new music from Wilco, Birds of Avalon, Sunset Rubdown, and more.
Wednesday June 10, 2009 @ 11 pm(EDT) (-0400 GMT)
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