Morocco: Mawazine music festival continues to stir anger

Morocco: Mawazine music festival continues to stir anger

Morocco’s infamous ‘Mawazine’ music festival, which draws in celebrities from the West as well as the Arab world once again was marked by controversy, raising questions as to whether it should be scrapped or re-made with a new business model entirely.

For years thousands of Moroccans have complained that the millions spent on paying for international artists could be money diverted towards the very poor. Officially Rabat claims that the event costs the state around 6m USD each year, but few believe this figure, claiming that individual mega stars demand this amount alone just for them to perform. In reality, critics argue, it is closer to ten times this amount.

And now this year, there is a new argument from some on social media that the money could be used for Gazans in Palestine, with many Moroccans angry also that even local artists were not given the correct level of prominence.

All activists and commentators across the country though all agree on the poor management of the event with many of them for years arguing that it should be scrapped.

“It’s funded by taxpayers’ hard earned money and mandatory contributions by all the major companies in Morocco” one told Maghrebi. “Mawazine is a middle finger to the people by the regime”.

But nobody seems to be listening to the activists. Or even Moroccan artists. Unlike previous editions of the Mawazine festival, Moroccan performers were not given the right place this year, activists claim who criticize the organizers of the event for giving the spotlight to Arab and foreign artists, who are paid colossal fees at the cost of Moroccan tax payers.

Some went as far as to denounce the low presence of Moroccan artists and called for a boycott of the festival, in solidarity with Palestine. They launched a social media campaign with the hashtag “Don’t dance on the wound of your brothers”, calling for festival funds to be used to provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

READ: Morocco sends new medical aid shipment to Gaza

The 19th edition of the Mawazine festival kicked off on June 21 and is set to run for 8 days with, arguably, the diminutive Australian celeb singer Kylie Minogue getting top billing. Arab singers included  Lebanese singer Haifa Wehbe, Najwa Karam, Ramy Ayach, Ahmad Saad, Marwan Khoury and Carole Samaha according to There is no transparency about how much stars got paid but millions of dollars are spent on some top names, justified by officials in Rabat who claim the event is good for promoting Morocco around the world.

Yet the outrage from many Moroccans – traditionally ignored by the Rabat elite and the palace – will not go unnoticed this year as the event itself was seriously under-attended by Moroccans.

Some media outlets, like AlJarida24, even went as far as to claim it was shunned by the Moroccan public in fact. This is the observation made by the website which noted a low attendance of spectators at the concerts during the opening ceremony which took place on Friday 21st June – an embarrassing situation which promoted the organisers to open “Gold” ticket places to the general public. A similar shambles was the handling of the press when two press conferences for Egyptian artists had to be cancelled as the artists couldn’t be bothered to show up on time. Problems with press management in recent years are commonplace though and mishaps are commonplace. In 2011, Moroccan music producer RedOne stormed out of a CNN interview leaving the Lebanese journalist in tears after hurling abuse at her in English and Arabic. Her question about the King angered him.




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