There’s no doubt that Morocco is a multi-ethnic country, from both a historical stance and a cultural stance. Their traditional music is multi-faceted, and the different ethnic groups have their own varieties and variations of their music.
Andalusian music (music of Andalusia, or Muslim Iberia [Spain and Portugal]) is a mix of the music of the Maghreb with the music of Iberia. Other popular styles of traditional music include Berber music, Sufi music, mystical Gnawa music, Chaabi music, and classical Malhun music. Some of the differences between these different styles include whether it’s for a religious or spiritual purpose or who performs it or what function the music is for.
While there are certainly differences between the various styles of music, some instruments are used throughout the region. Vocal music is still at the heart of their music. Instruments such as the rabab (like a fiddle), oud (lute), qanun (zither), tambourine, kamenjah (like a fiddle that is played upright held by the knees), darbuka (type of goblet drum, usually made of metal or pottery), handwa (small, brass cymbals), swisen (small folk-lute that is typically pitched higher; there’s also a bass version called a hadjouj), and the garagb (metal castinets) among others.
And like the diversity you find in their music, each ethnic group has their own dance as well. A few of the more common dances from Morocco include the shikat (belly dancing), ahwash (danced in the High Atlas Mountains, where women dance to a circle of male drummers), guedra (a type of Tuareg Berber dance performed by women), and the gnaoua (performed by men to drive out spirits, typically danced with acrobatic moves).
And certainly as they moved forward into independence and the latter half of the 20th century, their music was influenced by European and American music along with other areas of Africa and the Middle East. The first one I sampled was the music of Cheb Mimoun. There are several Moroccan musicians who perform their own version of rai music, a style of music far more popular in neighboring Algeria. The music uses some traditional instruments mixed with some modern ones. I think the rhythms drive the music—not just in the percussion lines but in the instrumentals as well.
Hanino is another musician who falls into this rai music genre as well, but to me, it’s a little more modernized. There are times when I swear he’s using autotune. There’s something I like about this, though.
There is also a huge hip-hop scene in Morocco. For the most part, they base their style off of American-style hip-hop. I first listened to Dizzy Dros. The music is catchy and the change ups are spaced well. I liked his rhythm and flow; his voice reminded me a little of Cypress Hill in a way at times, except that he was rapping in Arabic with some phrases in English mixed in. I listened to the album 3azzy 3ando Stylo, and what impressed me was that the album was long—it had 21 songs!
Another big name in Moroccan hip-hop is Muslim. His style wasn’t too much different than that of Dizzy Dros, although, I think sometimes he integrated traditional melodies into his music. The way he raps was a little more dark, maybe more gangsta? I don't know. I liked what I heard, though; I saw he collaborates with quite a few other artists.
I also came across a Moroccan rock band called Lazywall. Most of their songs are sung in English, and I think they’re great. Their style is an early-to-mid 2000s-style alternative rock, kind of similar to Audioslave. Ok, I am actually pretty damn impressed with them. In fact, I followed them on Spotify just so I can listen to them later in the car. They might be my new favorite band of the day.
There are other genres represented in Morocco as well. One Moroccan DJ and singer, who goes by the name Dub Afrika, has a few songs that are pretty catchy in the dance/club category. There’s also a small metal scene; I listened to a song by the band Sakadoya called “Back to the Age of Slaves.” It’s pretty metal in every sense. While everyone knows by now that I’m not such a fan of screaming in music (I do have my moods and moments where I don’t mind it), their instrumental playing is on point.
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