Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival
A story of faith and resistance
20 years ago the creation of this Festival was an audacious and almost insolent wager in a context much different compared to that of today. It was Morocco still snuggling in the throes of the past with festival traditions of another epoch.
20 years ago Internet just arrived in Morocco offering an extraordinary opening up to the world and the Moroccan Diaspora wherever it may have been.
At that time this Festival was a pioneer. It was a pioneering force in its approach of offering a free cultural space open to all and in going on line with an event website through which Moroccans of the world could express powerful messages of encouragement and solidarity.
Very quickly we became aware of the fact that the event we had just created went well beyond our original ambitions.
There where we were advocating the creation of a new and positive dynamic to tear down barriers and create social commingling, too many decision-makers considered us just a bunch of unrealistic dreamers.
20 years ago when through the Gnaoua we stressed our African identity, often we were regarded with condescendence. This Africa we are so proud to evoke in its political and economic dimension is also becoming increasingly evident from the cultural side.
The advent of the reign of Mohammed VI was going to change everything. Then came the youth spring time, the cultural spring, the independent press, the Moroccan movida and a whole movement that still today continues to transform our society.
Islamists started to make themselves heard, even the moderate ones who saw this festival as a place for debauchery and danger to society.
Youth and popular joy began to come to the fore. The media whether from here or elsewhere also followed suit. They began to see in this project a door open to plural, modern, proud and fully committed Morocco.
Came the turn of the National Council for Human Rights which saw in this Festival a space which backs the values of freedom, equality, and diversity making heard the voice of minorities. We are proud to count this high authority among the Festival’s top partners.
Yes, this Festival has a genuine story to tell. Much more than a simple distraction, it constitutes a full-fledged act of faith and resistance!
We are proud to be here together after 20 years and we hope we will be meeting again in 10, 20 or even 30 years’ time.
And then we could, as once whispered to me by a musician friend of mine “in the country of the argan tree it is art that wins free”.
Producer of Gnaoua and World Music Festival