As the mercury rises and layers of clothing are subsequently shed, Marrakech is back to being one of the region’s party hotspots. Recognized for its festive atmosphere, the red city, nestled in the Moroccan south, has a penchant for attracting visitors from all points of the globe during summer — and this last weekend was no exception.
Two of the Kingdom’s artistic powerhouses recently teamed up to conceive a one-of-a-kind event called Dar Mbari. Spearheaded by Marjana Jaidi, founder of the renowned Oasis Festival, and contemporary photographer Hassan Hajjaj, the dynamic duo worked hand-in-hand to string a unique, and most importantly, fuss-free celebration of the North African country’s culture.
The day-long celebration of arts, music, and talent saw some of Morocco’s finest creatives flock from their respective cities to support each other, flaunt their varied skills, and shed some light on the industry in the most authentic way possible. For an entire day, titles and numbers were set aside to make room for an honest sonic meeting to take place and bring more heat than there already is in the Ochre City of Marrakech.
Hajjaj and Jaidi stand for a lot of things, including pushing their home country’s culture forward and making sure that it is accessible to everyone. The two industry-beloved creatives did not scrimp on the way they delivered their latest venture, bringing hard beats, around-the-clock events, and memorable moments for the handpicked pool of attendees to enjoy. From Mbari House’s symbolism to its actual layout, everything was thoroughly thought out to highlight the ongoing cultural shift taking place in Morocco as well as those coaxing the scene with more or less silence.
“Mbari actually refers to a club in the sixties founded by Chinua Achebe and it was a place for artists from different disciplines to come together, collaborate and show their work. There’s a quote from the founder that sums up the spirit which reads ‘Mbari is a celebration through art, of the world and of the life lived in it.’ That’s what we’re trying to do while also showing the amount of creativity in Morocco,” Jaidi told Mille.
Echoing on Jaidi’s statement, Hajjaj added: “This is our first trial and honestly, so far so good for both of us. We’re not making any money from this but all we want is for it to work — one, for the culture, and two, to do something in Morocco and to rely on a Moroccan audience.”
It’s quite late in the afternoon when we start making our way to the event. Held at Hajjaj’s recently-opened Jajjah space — a new multi-purpose location in Sidi Ghanem that includes an art gallery, shop, and restaurant — that brought together attendees from all over Morocco, the region, and world to mingle and connect as they waited for performances and panel talks from some of the scene’s favorite faces.
Resonating with young and old adults, attendees sat around a very Maghrebi-decorated room. The Arab world’s most-streamed artist ElGrandeToto, accompanied by Small x, Draganov and Dizzy DROS, some of the kingdom’s main chart-topping artists, all found a seat in Hajjaj’s Marrekchi nest for an in-depth panel discussion that probed why Moroccan hip hop is leading the MENA region.
For about an hour and thirty minutes, the fan-favorite MCs passed the mic to one another (much like we saw some of them do on Toto’s stellar “Salina” cypher) to share their thoughts, ambitions, and aspirations on their respective careers.
“It’s been 10 or 20 years where there was not a single penny in the industry. People were doing it for the love,” said Dizzy DROS. “The fact that we’re able right now to sit down and discuss contracts with these big labels and be able to live off the things we love to do is great for us, the culture, and obviously the country,” added the artist, who is one of Morocco’s most successful rappers.
Passion and hunger are the fuel to these creatives’ engines. Well aware of the Hercules task laid in front of them, those that are now considered as confirmed artists have been striving towards recognition and success for years, not to say decades. From a grass-root level, they, without exception, all had to design and build the industry we see today, which wasn’t without hurdles.
“I’ve been independent all the way and it’s been a very big fight. I understand all the problems the new generation has when it comes to the money, when it comes to producing and so on. You need help. And at the end of the day, I feel like I’m in a position where I can fight that for all of us. It’s about keeping control over our products and narratives” the rapper continued.
Seeing the quartet sit on the sedari (Moroccan couch) felt like they had finally acknowledged reaching the peak of their powers as well as the responsibility that comes with that. The supportive, give-back attitude was apparent through their energy and words. It was also transfused to the crowd, that had been patiently waiting to see this iconic group of lyricists shed their sonic crafts onto them. It’s almost eight and the curtains finally peel open, providing party-goers with exactly what they were expecting: a performance to remember.
Panellists, including female rapper Khtek who joined afterwards, took over the stage, one after the other, making attendees eager for an exclusive concert, or should we say informal meeting, between the audience and artists.
ElGrandeToto, who came up last to wrap up the show, invited the rest of the crew for one last dance before the night came to a triumphant close. Diffusing “Salina,” his last release, onto the energetic pool of people felt like the cherry on top of the cake while also tangibly embodying the sense of brotherhood displayed during the panel conversation earlier on in the day.
From food and music to art and passion, Mbari House was a clear-cut success. Pushing the culture onwards and upwards, the event undoubtedly achieved its main objective: to nurture a blossoming scene with every individual, regardless of how influential they may be, that wants to add their straw to the already rich haystack of culture.
Passion was obviously more important than any kind of financial gain and it was adamantly felt by all party-goers through genuine interactions and authentic meetings. It’s hard to believe that this was Jaidi and Hajjaj’s first event, and considering how things went down, we are unable to think of how it could possibly be better in future years, a challenge only they’ll know how to overcome — if the need ever arises, that is.