Places to visit in Morocco – the Gnaoua Music Festival, Essaouira

The picturesque coastal town of Essaouira may be around three hours from Marrakech but scheduling time for a visit to the four-day Gnaoua Music Festival (12th-15th June) is well worthwhile.

A good, four or five times daily coach service to Essaouira is operated by Supratours from Marrakech (behind the rail station) at a cost of 75 dhs, single.

Gnaoua Music

Combining traditional music, acrobatic dancing and ritual poetry, Gnaoua music originates from sub-Saharan Africa, although it has gradually evolved to incorporate African Islamic and Berber spiritual themes and rhythms.

The Festival

In addition to artists from Essaouira itself and Marrakech, the Gnaoua festival also showcases contemporary world music performed by pop, jazz and rock artists from across the world. Dozens of free concerts can be attended at the festival’s two main stages, one of which will be on the central Place Moulay Hassan, yards from the seawall.

A variety of more ‘intimate’ venues will, however, require tickets (around £15 each) which should be purchased as far in advance as possible.

Participating Artists

Now in its 17th consecutive year, the Gnaoua Music Festival has become a permanent fixture in the calendar of world music festivals. Around 400 artists (international, 150 and Moroccan, 250) are expected to participate in this year’s event including these international artists:

  • Metaand The Cornerstones fromSenegal
  • Mario Canonge from Martinique-France
  • Marcus Miller from theUnited States
  • Ibrahim Maalouf from Lebanon-France
  • El Khadir Chawqi
  • Didier Lockwood fromFrance
  • Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni ba fromMali, and
  • Ayo from Niger-Germany
  • M. Abdelkbir Merchane
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