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History & Heritage


Morocco’n’Roll : How Moroccan progressive rock came into being

In post-independence Morocco, a vibrant generation of young Moroccans found themselves in a particular cultural context, giving rise to a thriving progressive rock scene.

On March 2, 1956, France and Morocco marked the end of the Treaty of Fez, putting paid to the four-decade French protectorate in the country. However, following the kingdom’s independence, many of those of European origin who had settled in Morocco during the French protectorate chose to remain in the country, thanks to the cordial relations that Morocco maintained with other countries after its independence, principally with France. Casablanca, the kingdom’s economic and cultural center, thus basked in a highly cosmopolitan atmosphere during this period. The city boasted art deco architecture, cinemas screening Western films and concert halls playing Western music. It was in this effervescent context that the Moroccan rock scene began to emerge, as Casablanca’s youth became increasingly open to European musical genres.

In this context of openness, young Moroccan musicians were exposed not only to European music, but also to American rock music, thanks to the American soldiers stationed at the Kénitra base in the west of the kingdom, present in the Atlantic country to safeguard their interests in the context of the Cold War. At the time, the Kénitra base was home to some 20,000 American soldiers, making it one of the largest US bases abroad, just behind those in Japan. These soldiers welcomed groups who performed every Saturday evening on their base, exposing Moroccan musicians to the repertoire of American music with which the soldiers were familiar. This gave rise to cultural exchanges, as the musicians began to adapt these American rock songs into Arabic, infusing them with their own cultural inflections, and thus ushering in a new era of Moroccan rock and funk music. But who were the artists at the forefront of this movement?

Les Frères Mégri

One band that gained widespread recognition was Les Frères Mégri, formed in Oujda. Comprising the three brothers, Hassan, Mahmoud, and Younés, along with their sister Jalila, the band fused Moroccan folk music with rock elements. Their singles and albums, such as “Lili Touil,” “Ya Mraya,” and “Sebar,” became anthems for the youth in North Africa.


Another dominant figure in the Moroccan rock scene was Fadoul, who introduced funk and garage sounds to an audience unaccustomed to such music. Despite being a doctor, Fadoul pursued his dream of being a musician. His covers and original compositions drew heavy influence from James Brown, earning him the title of the “Moroccan James Brown.” In recent years, Fadoul’s music has experienced a revival, thanks to the renewed interest sparked by the Habibi Funk Records label.

Abdou el Omari

Abdou el Omari, a musician from a generation committed to pushing artistic boundaries, is considered a pioneer of Moroccan psychedelia. As an organist, percussionist, composer, and producer, he fearlessly innovated while staying true to the rhythms of his country’s traditional music. His compositions, including “Fatine” and “Rajaat Laayoun,” have become highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts alike, and regularly feature in vintage music stores and websites.

Golden Hands

While numerous artists embraced rock and funk with a Moroccan twist before, it was the Golden Hands band that propelled the genre onto the international stage. Led by Aziz Daou el Makane, the group introduced Moroccan rock to the world by crafting covers of Western rock hits, such as Nino Ferrer’s “Mirza” featuring Janis Bellil, infusing rock with the Moroccan dialect.

Published on 17 July 2023