5 Moroccan Musicians You Need To Know

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These were some of the standouts from this year’s Oasis Festival

Marrakech’s Oasis Festival started its third year on a high note—it sold out. Held at luxury hotel The Source last month, Oasis drew an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people to the foothills of the Atlas Mountains for three days (and nights) of thumping house and techno. It’s an intimate event that, at its core, celebrates every iota of Morocco down to the lineup, where a hefty portion is devoted to local acts. The fact Oasis even exists is daring, planting a flag as the country’s first destination festival of its kind. But, as an excited crowd pushes through the compound’s large, wooden gateway, chattering in German, Italian, French, Arabic, and English, it’s clear people are ready to revel, imbibing in Morocco’s rich, vibrant culture… with a thumping soundtrack.

Oasis’ popularity means it might have to change locations next year, and that’s a little heartbreaking. Its current location is pure perfection for hosting a boutique festival. Fruited trees that offer olives and lemons flank the compound’s tiny winding walkways. Rosemary, which thrives in drier climates, grows here in hedges, scenting the air as you walk by. There’s an area with hookahs, a rooftop with cacti on the cusp of flowering, and a tucked-away Champagne bar where drinks are to be enjoyed on jewel-toned pillows strewn across the grass. Stout palm trees are everywhere, and during the daytime, the towering crest of the Atlas Mountains can be seen in the distance.

Rather than truckloads of LED panels and stage effects, a few simple directional lights and dramatic bursts of fog are all that’s needed for the festival's no-fuss main stage. DJ Solomun plays an eight-hour set. Nicolas Jaar plays for two nights (the result of Maceo Plex having to cancel unexpectedly). And, there is a bevy of Moroccan DJs: Jaza, Driss Skali, Polyswitch, and more. Nearby, the densely sweet smells of food beckon, with booths that offer couscous, tajines, and briouat (pastry covered with a flaky, phyllo-like dough). Yes, it’s a partygoer’s paradise, but Oasis also represents something much more.

“It’s something we always dreamt of,” says Amine K, a Moroccan artist who performed at Oasis this year, touching on how rare the opportunity to play for such a large, international crowd is. “With a Moroccan passport, you can’t go anywhere. You need a visa to leave the country," he explains. "And they don’t always give out visas.”

Though it’s exponentially harder for Moroccan DJs to tour, music, as Amine and other Morocco-born and -bred artists tell us, is simply a part of their heritage. House and techno have an especially emotional pull, drawing parallels to local spiritual genres like gnawa, which uses hypnotic drum patterns with unusual swing. “People go into a trance listening to it,” Amine says. “Traditional Moroccan music has some of the same vibes as electronic music because it’s fast, it’s repetitive.” Driss Skali, another Moroccan artist, says, “Give a Moroccan anything, and they will find a way to make music with it.” Below, get to know five of our favorite acts from Oasis festival, the ones that put us in a trance until dawn and defined the identity of Morocco’s new wave of electronic music.

Photograph by DED PIXEL of DED AGENCY.

Amine K
If there were a ringleader, for pushing the sound of Moroccan DJs to a global audience, it would be Amine K. The co-founder of party Moroko Loko along with UNES and MAR1, Amine has sought to use his platform to encourage and foster the country’s burgeoning desire for electronic music. The events have been work, but they now garner a minimum of 1,000 attendees at each one and happen once or twice a month. The plan, Amine says, is to regularly export Moroko Loko around the world (they’ve already hit Canada and Japan), bringing his resident DJs with him to show the world what Morocco has to offer. As far as his music when DJing, expect house-centric tunes that dominate with slow, coursing sounds and large doses of shaking percussion. It often toes the line between feeling electronic and live, leading listeners into a body bliss best experienced on the dance floor. I can attest.

Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

It marks her third duet with Nas

Here are some words that I never expected to read or hear again: There is a new song with Amy Winehouse. But here we are in 2019, and Salaam Remi has granted me a wish. On Valentine's Day, the Grammy-nominated producer and frequent Winehouse collaborator (also responsible for hits like Miguel's "Come Through & Chill") released "Find My Love" which features rapper Nas and that powerful and haunting voice that I have come to love and cherish so dearly.

Representatives for Remi said that the Winehouse vocals were from an old jam session the two had. Remi was a producer on both of Winehouse's albums, Frank and Back to Black. "Find My Love" marks the third time Winehouse and Nas have done duets under the direction of Remi. They were previously heard together on "Like Smoke," a single from her 2011 posthumous album Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures, and "Cherry Wine" from Nas' 2012 album Life Is Good. Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, before they could complete production on her third album. My heart is still broken about it as she is by far my favorite artist.

"Find My Love" is set to appear on Remi's Do It for the Culture 2, a collection of songs curated by him. Check it out, below.



Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

"In the midst of chaos there's opportunity"

Following the travesty that was Fyre Festival, Ja Rule wants to take another stab at creating a music festival. Good luck getting that off the ground.

On Thursday, the rapper spoke to TMZ, where he revealed that he was planning to relaunch Icon, an app used to book entertainers, which is similar to Billy McFarland's Fyre app. He told the outlet that he wanted to create a festival similar to Fyre to support it.

"[Fyre Festival] is heartbreaking to me. It was something that I really, really wanted to be special and amazing, and it just didn't turn out that way, but in the midst of chaos there's opportunity, so I'm working on a lot of new things," he says. He then gets into the fact that he wants to form a music festival. "[Fyre] is the most iconic festival that never was... I have plans to create the iconic music festival, but you didn't hear it from me."

Ja Rule actually doesn't seem to think he is at all responsible for what came from Fyre Fest, claiming in a Twitter post that he was "hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hood winked, led astray." Even if that's his feeling, he should realize that anyone involved with Fyre shouldn't ever try their hand at music festivals again.