During your visit to Morocco you will discover Marrakech’s central square (Jemaa al-Fnaa) to be a sensory overload of sight, taste and sound whether you visit at night or at day.
One stall that you might hear before you see however, are the various CD sellers that are scattered about Jemaa al-Fnaa. As well as selling a variety of local music that’s impossible to buy hard copies of in Europe, come night and day they will be setting the rhythm of the square, filling the air with the sounds of Gnawa and the Arab world.
After working with a team of international journalists and DJ’s on a radio station in Oslo, Norway I’ve become keen to find new and interesting sounds that don’t make it onto the airwaves in the British Isles.
So after approaching one of the stalls I was delighted when the stall owner, whose name was Jalid came over to tell me more about the types of music the stalls collect. Jalid informs me that the stall collects Western sounds as well as Arabic, Berber, Gnawa and traditional Arabic music from artist’s hailing from all over North Africa.
Jalid goes on to tell me that in the 5 years he has been working in Jemaa al-Fnaa he has developed a love for house music. So after a long week’s work Jalid and his friends exchange the timeless traditional characteristics of the Marrakech Medina for the bright lights and modern bustle of the new town of Guiliez, in search of discos and contemporary music.
During your stay in Marrakech, strike up conversation with one of the many music salesmen scattered through the city square, they will be delighted to hear you take an interest in the native sounds of North Africa. They will also be more than happy to recommend an artist for you and a CD from a local musician makes for an eye opening gift for a friend back home.
Finally, don’t be too shy to recommend some music from your own corner of the world to the salesmen themselves! Music is their passion and they will only thank you for it. Jemaa al-Fnaa is the beating heart of the red city of Marrakech and is only a 10 minute walk from the luxury Riad Star.
You never truly quite know what to expect before venturing into Marrakech’s thriving central hub, Jemaa al-Fnaa. A five minute wander through this ancient space and you will witness acrobats, story tellers and magicians all competing to hold the gaze of the moving crowds.
There is one act, however that is perhaps quite different from the others. A troupe of four musicians, Abdulrahim, Mostafa, Abdelrazak and Said make up the group known as ‘Amal Saha’ and unlike the mysterious, healing sounds of Gnawa music in the square, Amal Saha’s songs are powerfully charged with optimism.
Abdulrahim disappear’s shortly after as the crowds begin to swarm around the group once more. Soon after the steady cadence of the band’s drums slowly fills the air with sound as screams, claps and shouts erupt from the crowd. Although Amal Saha’s lyrics are of course in Arabic, the raw, uncompromising riffs flowing from the bands electric banjo through to a megaphone powered by a car battery are without need of a translation. This was not so much of a conventional music performance in which a band plays music for an audience to listen. As the drums, guitars and shrill cries of Amal Saha pierce the already wild atmosphere of Jemaa al-Fnaa I learn that this is a performance in which both musician and crowd are animated under the same energy of expression.
And unlike the various punk concerts I attend back in the United Kingdom, Amal Saha are encased by a crowd of parents, children and the elderly, all chanting in unison.
Jemaa al-Fnaa is a five to ten minute walk from any of our Riad’s and a night spent with Amal Saha for me was another case example of the remarkable experiences that can be had just from walking through the streets of the red city of Marrakech.