Last night we went to Jazz au Chellah, Rabat’s annual week-long Jazz Festival. The festival is an initiative from the European Union in partnership with the Moroccan Ministry of Culture and the theme is ‘European Jazz- Moroccan Music.’
To be honest- I didn’t do my research before going and I expected maybe a small stage with a few hundred in the audience. I was wrong. It was a lot bigger than I expected and is a landmark in Morocco’s cultural calendar. The festival takes place in Chellah, the site of ancient Roman ruins, wrapped inside Moorish medieval city walls and makes for a spectacular setting.
We purchased our tickets and entered through one of the intimidating yet intricately decorated gates. Then made our way through a small part of the gardens to reach the stage and climbed the tiered seating until we had the best view.
I’m no jazz-aficionado but I really enjoyed the show. It started with a band called SighFire, a contemporary jazz trio (according to their Wikipedia). Although I felt the star of the show was their special guest Abdullah Miniawy, an Egyptian musician who played trumpet and performed in Arabic. My Moroccan friend who came with us told us he was inspired by Sufi chants. Sufism is a form of Islamic mysticism.
I have to admit there were a few moments where one of the band members got carried away on an electric ukulele and I wasn’t sure if it was jazz or noise-rock. The audience were applauding it but I think this was them trying to tell him to stop. Either way, it was still entertaining!
Following on from this group Eva Fernández Trio, who were definitely my favorite of the night. Eva, the lead singer also played the saxophone and her lyrics were inspired by Argentinian poetry. Like the first act I had what they were singing about but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it.
If you are in Morocco near Rabat when this annual festival is on. I’d highly recommend it. Its extremely good value with tickets starting from 50 dirham which is around 5 euros and student tickets are available if you buy them early! The unique setting and jazz fusion music makes Jazz au Chellah a cultural showcase not to be missed.
Until next time!
-The Student Explorer