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Festivals and Cultural Diplomacy, North Africa

A Lyrical Revolution in Morocco?

by Letizia Binda-Partensky (ACD Program Coordinator)

Chaabi, Gnawa, Malhun, Rai, Sufi, And what about a pinch of slam? 

In the midst of the February 20th protest movement, politically challenging lyrics are infiltrating the Moroccan music scene, increasingly reaching the ears of listeners through alternative music festivals and radio stations.

Since end of the rule by iron fist of Hassan II twelve years ago, a slow revival of politically critical artistic initiatives has been unfolding.  ‘I have seen on TV real elections, politicians who answer question, all of this see from here, it is science fiction,’ echoed the microphones of the last festivals, ‘L’Boulevard’ and ‘Tremplin.’ Started in 1999, these festivals are now benefitting from the return of expatriated artists wishing to take part in the democratization of their homeland. ‘I am not fighting for a country of revolution, I am fighting for a country of respect,’ says Jaouad Essouan, director satirizing the Tahrir square uprising.

Music and socio-political arts are gaining further exposure through the National Library of Morocco’s panel series on art and politics. Director Driss Khrouz stands up and stresses the importance of discussing ‘democracy, the role of religion, and its impact in schools.’ Nevertheless, too few artists are taking the risk to be outspoken in a context in which journalists are sentenced to prison when deemed too subversive.

Half of ‘L’Boulevard’s’ programming was however cancelled due to lack of funding this year. The organizers of the festival are now broadcasting on radio, but private funding remains too little. Meanwhile, politically engaged artists boycotted the government sponsored the May Mawazine festival, which included Kayne West amongst other pop musicians.

Megalomania is particularly important when it comes to raising awareness amongst the youth engaged in the – illegal – monthly protests. The last protest took place on May 22nd, a month after the launch of a commission for constitutional reform launched by Mohammed VI. Thus far the protest organizers have maintained their call for action through social web forums such Facebook and Twitter.

Check out these links for further information.




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We are the Blogsphere Team of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. We are the interactive part of the web resources of ICD. We spread culture and mutual understanding among cultures through blogs.


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The London Art as Cultural Diplomacy ConferenceAugust 21st, 2013


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