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Rabat Jazz fest offers medley of musical styles

Moroccan musician Hamid El-Kasry performs during the 2019 Gnaoua music festival in Morocco's western region of Essaouira on June 22, 2019.   -  
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Past and present intersected at a historic fort in Rabat, where dozens of musicians regaled a live audience with their art during a jazz festival.

Local artists and performers from across Europe are back on this stage after a two-year pause because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since it started in 1996, the Chellah Jazz fest has been mixing up elements of European jazz with Moroccan music.

Organised by the European Union delegation in Morocco, with the help of the Culture Ministry, the event launches Rabat's cultural calendar after the summer holidays.

Its aim is to provide a cultural bridge between the North and South Mediterranean Sea and European jazz artists are invited to play alongside Moroccan musicians and this year is no exception.

The artists opened the four-day event in style on Thursday night before Moroccan singer Soukaina Fahsi took the stage.

For 29-year-old Fahsi, it has been a dream come true to perform before an audience at this jazz festival.

"I remember my first time here, I was really in a trance," she said, adding "I was like, 'this stage, I want to be on that stage some day.'"

That night also featured a performance by the Magic Spirit Quartet, the brainchild of Swedish trumpeter Goran Kajfes and musician Majid Bekkas, who likes to fuse Moroccan gnaoua music with other styles.

This was a repeat of a collaboration between the two artists on the same stage a decade ago.

"In 2005, it was the first time and I met Majid Bekkas, maalem (master) Majid Bekkas and fell in love with Moroccan music, gnaoua music," said Kajfes.

"Many years later, we formed a group together," he added.

Bekkas said this stage in Rabat has been a stepping stone for many Moroccan artists, who would go on to play in tours after performing at the festival.

"Many Moroccan musicians who went through this experience (at the festival) have managed to travel to Europe, record their albums and go on tours," he said


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