“It’s not just about the place,” says Youssef Elaouam, founder of Aloha Vibes. “It’s about the people that live here, or that simply pass by, that makes the charm of it all,” he adds, referring to Taghazout, the city that hosts his surf camp-turned-music-studio. At 28-years-old, the young Agadir native is on his way to building a sonic hub worthy of the name in the Moroccan South, in a town famed for its mesmerizing views, its dream-like landscape, and enthralling coast. Given the efforts and previous works on the rising entrepreneur’s ever-expanding portfolio so far, the city might now also potentially be recognized as another cultural capital in the Kingdom.
A few months ago, we traveled to Morocco, courtesy of FAMA, to dig into the often forgotten and marginalized scene that’s been sprouting in the past decade in the Sahara bordering region. On our way to attend the very noise-generating MOGA festival in Essaouira, located two small hours away from Taghazout, we simply had to stop by Aloha before continuing on our epic journey to rave in the following days.
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Initially built as an accommodation that welcomes locals and expats alike to put their feet up, recharge their batteries, and submerge themselves in a decor quite like no other, the family business has since been taken over by the patriarch’s son who has opened a creative outlet right beneath the lodging itself. Inviting artists, from Morocco and elsewhere, to change scenery, record demos or actual tracks, and potentially inspire new projects, the spot has seen a number of the industry’s biggest names come through to pay their respects to one of the country’s next cradles of music.
Until now, the underground location has had the likes of FIFA World Cup ambassador Manal take part in their acoustic live sessions, as well as Asfi-born MC Small X, Casablanca hitmaker ElGrandeToto, and Paris-based drill artist Frenetik140 stand behind the mic to deliver a performance that matches the levels of ambition seen in the region and African continent from the small fishing village.
“I was brought up here, I’ve been surfing and hosting people since I was young, it’s always been my thing. Music has always been there too. The residency is just a blend of all the things that I love and that have made me over the years. I want to make Taghazout shine and share its beauty with as many people as possible,” Elaouam told Mille.
“It’s important for us to try and make it out from here. We’re from the South, we’re too used to not having much happening here and we want to make this status-quo change,” he continued, before revealing how frustrating it is to see most cultural activities take place in the north of the Kingdom, which is why he’s taking it upon himself and his team to try drag these events towards them.
It’s true, when it comes to popular culture in Morocco, it seems as if the only scene getting recognition is in Casablanca or Marrakech, giving the everyday netizen the impression that crowds can only gather in these two cities, and that events are only worth being organized when held there. This deep partition has ended up splitting the North African Kingdom into two halves, allowing one side to thrive at the expense of the other. With the founding of Aloha though, the past two years of existence have, amongst other things, been spent challenging and disputing the above dynamics. By making use of Taghazout’s preexisting infrastructures, its age-old traditions, Elaouam and his team seek to instigate a cultural renaissance with the cooperation of the new generation of talent that is sweeping through the country’s streets.
“Everything is already here, all we have to do is seize the opportunity that’s in front of us. Thankfully enough, local authorities have shown their eagerness at heightening our efforts and share the same vision as us, the same enthusiasm to rebalance the north-south relationship, and showcase our local art,” Elaouam noted, adding “We’re in a heaven-like location with a sufficient touristic model. We just need to shoot our shot at exploiting what’s handed to us.”
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On the accommodation’s terrace that gives onto the beach, towards the end of our conversation, Elaouam insisted on how his focal point is naturally aimed at catering to people that look like him, that can relate to his ethos, and that share the same determination at pushing the culture one step forward.
“We’ve heavily focused our productions on Moroccan rap and RnB. They’re all live performances which adds an extra touch but are also a lot of work. We’ve got great ideas, and great content has come out so far, but the rest is still yet to be done,” he shared.
“The vision we had was to first build a presence online, meet like-minded creatives, and exchange as we can’t have everyone over at the studio. Eventually, we’d like to transition into a physical gathering by means of the launch of a festival.
“We’d like to invite all the people that have been part of our journey, can it be in front or behind the camera, and have them over. We’d be bringing a whole new offer to the table, which is, in this case, attract artists, develop unique content with them here, and then bring them back for an exclusive concert by the end of the year.”