August 19, 2012

Music as cross-cultural dialogue

The seemingly endless selection of Arabic music video channels on the satellite dish has, without a doubt, have made different music genres more accessible. This is true not just in the Maghreb and the Gulf. Of course, Khaliji music has its variations, as well as Maghrebi music. As a Moroccan, I can certainly vouch for the popularity of Khaliji music in Morocco.

I remember a few years ago around 2005 when Rachid El Majed was becoming super popular in Morocco. His videos usually showed scores of girls dancing along to his music, sometimes with one special video vixen by his side.
Above is one of the more popular numbers he's put out. The first time I saw it, my male cousin commented, "Look at all these Moroccan whores." According to him, all those girls were just in search for a few extra bucks and jumped at the opportunity to be featured in a Khaliji artist's music video, which was sure to reach a wide audience. I asked him how he knew they were Moroccan. He said, "Just look at them. Can't you tell?" Well, no, I couldn't. I still can't tell. But it seemed to be a general view shared by other Moroccans. (My co-blogger, Mona, informed me that folks in the Gulf thought the girls were Eastern European). But, that didn't stop this song from becoming a huge hit. Along with several others of his, including this one, which also features a bunch of dancing girls (similarly labelled as Moroccan whores by some).

A few years later, Rachid El Majed partnered up with popular Moroccan artist, Asmaa Lmnawar and together, the two came up with this:

Asmaa Lmnawar has also gained prominence in the Khaliji music scene, with numbers such as this. Below is Asma Lmnawar covering Moroccan singer, Najat Aatabou's popular hit, "J'en ai marre," along with a band and audience of Khalijis.

Her songs in the Khaliji dialect have not hindered her popularity in the Maghreb either since she also balances it with covers of popular Moroccan classics. During concerts, she'll often go back and forth between the two dialects with cheers and applause all along the way.

Popular Khaliji singers, such as Hussein El Jasmi, have joined in on the Maghreb-Khaliji fusion music trend.

The lyrics are in Maghrebi dialect but the music is very much Khaliji in style. Oh, this was a huge hit in Morocco. Below is the full video of his performance at the International Mawazine Music Festival in Rabat. After he sang some nationalist song dedicated to Morocco, he opened up with the song I linked above.

The music between the two regions has facilitated a wider dialogue, whether it's between the artists or the audience. That dialogue may not always be positive in some cases, but it's a conversation that transcends both regions and arguably leading to a greater understanding and even appreciation of the other.


  1. Dunno, um not sure that totally agree. I think that wn music promulgates it's for the composition and theme not the clip.I adore "Rai"music cuz it's just different in style n holds surprises to me every time i listen to.Also the instruments used are one of a kind. Khaliji music can n'er be on the same stage with the Rai. How'er they do've some one of a kind compositions I can't deny. Yet wn a song makes a hit cuz of ti's clip..this is not a "song" success story.
    Moreo'er, Al Jasmi wouldn't have survived without the Egyptian magical musical effect..most of the Arabs especially the Khalijis have to pass by the Egyptian music world so as to guarantee success and spreading. Finally to conclude, Rai can n'er be on the same level of Khaliji music and the Egyptian advantage can n'er be ignored.
    Thank you for the piece :)

  2. Why did you leave that sour comment Alia? You are putting people in danger of actually reading it when you forget to take it with you.

    Who are you to say which music can mingle together and which can never? If imperious absolutism such as yours was the rule, we would have no music whatsoever since all music and anything laudable is synthesised by cross-pollination of traditions and cultures. I have witnessed many times musical traditions, that in my ignorance seemed incompatible as fire and water are, combine so delightfully. So now I set myself to being open-minded by default.

    No one has diminished or besmirched Egypt; where is Egypt mentioned in the article? Your non sequitur comment might then be contextualised as you offering us a free tour of your own psychological frailties? If I related my 2008 travel to Egypt, and was liberal about the details, overly reporting the people living in cemeteries and cities stinking of an open sewer, then I could account for a response in the tone you use in your comment. However no such provocation was given.

    No one has mentioned Rai(?) incidentally. The centre of activity for that genre is Algeria not Morocco. And if given the choice, I would choose Rai over anything scraped off the Nile 90% of the time. This a personal opinion. And also, it is Morocco and the Gulf that is being discussed here. Stay on topic or go play in the garden.

    In conclusion, these fusions and musical endeavours have gained adoring and grateful fans, so your assertion fall to the bottom of the sea of opinions. My soul owes too much currency to my country Morocco and the Gulf, this makes my silence impossible.