DJ Sim H: Finding Freedom in Rap

By Najah Mateen

CASABLANCA, Morocco – When Simo Sguiry was a child, he and his younger brother would listen to American artists from their father’s tape collection. “I grew up with Michael Jackson,” Simo says.

Since then, his musical tastes have changed a lot. A Casablanca native, Simo is now a DJ, and the Moroccan music industry knows him as DJ Sim H.

Like Simo, Moroccans have embraced hip-hop culture while managing to put their own cultural twist on something that was once uniquely American. This is evident in the current generation of Moroccan rappers, who rap in Arabic, Darija, and French.

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Marrakech shopkeepers are teaching Gnawa music

By Shirley Chan

MARRAKECH, Morocco – Jemaa el Fnaa isn’t the only place to discover Gnawa music in Marrakech anymore.

“[Tourists] come to Marrakech, they go to the big square – the only place you can see Gnawa,” said Simo Alkhadi, shopkeeper and founder of Gnaoua Academy. “[Gnawa musicians] don’t give them a while to listen to the music, they come directly and ask for the money.”

In the bustling souks beyond the famous square, two shopkeepers are teaching Gnawa music in their shops.

Gnawa music is a genre of traditional Moroccan music  that originated with the enslaved sub-Saharan Africans who were brought to Morocco and eventually integrated into Berber culture.

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Gnawa Music Gains International Clout, Worldclass Musician Swears by Playing from the Heart



Amlil says he “works with his heart,” not for money or fame. Traveling around the world with his band for international festivals is “very hard, it’s a lot, but when you love this…you do it…”

RABAT, Morocco–Abdelkader Amlil sits cross-legged at the head of a crowded but cozy room that he has repurposed into his music studio. Tucked away deep in the medina of Rabat, Morocco, the studio is host to his band’s practicing sessions, as well as casual gatherings of family members and friends.

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Jazz-Moroccan Fusion Fills Chellah


RABAT, Morocco – Sitting behind the ticket booth at the French Institute, 23-year-old Ilyas Drissi holds all the power. An open metal box contains the stubs of the 900 sold tickets, the quota for Saturday night’s pre-sales of Jazz au Chellah—a five-day music festival of jazz-Moroccan fusion located in Rabat’s Chellah Ruins.

“I’m sorry, we’re all sold out,” Drissi told a French couple who approached the table. “You’ll have to buy your tickets at the door.”

Currently on its nineteenth edition, the festival has become wildly popular, so much so that tickets steadily sold out for every night.

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Recording the Stories and Sounds of Morocco’s Jews




Victoria Anidjar de Abergel, 67, stands next to her intricately displayed dinner table of dates, fruits, nuts and wine glasses, speaking face-to-face with a woman who holds a well-worn Sony digital voice recorder between them. De Abergel explains that the display is for a uniquely Moroccan Jewish tradition called Mimouna, which marks the end of Passover with families throwing open their doors to friends and relatives well into the night, receiving them to eat, drink, pray and sing. Decades ago, she says, her Muslim neighbors would help gather food and even stop by her house during Mimouna celebrations.

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