Casablanca makes spectacular comeback to international festival scene

Sunday 16/07/2017
New concept. Swedish R&B singer, songwriter and music producer Maher Zain performing on the stage of Casa Festival. (Saad Guerraoui)

Casablanca - Morocco’s economic capital, Casablanca, has returned to the international festival scene in a spectacu­lar way.
Ten arts were honoured through­out Casa Festival, which ran for ten days in July, during which na­tional and international artists performed. Dance, readings, film screenings, children’s shows and street art took place in Casablanca’s 16 boroughs.
Festival organisers said the new concept was to make Casa Festival free for the people of Casablanca.
“The objective behind the festi­val is to promote Casablanca’s at­tractiveness, both nationally and internationally, draw tourists and reconcile the city with its inhabit­ants,” said Mohamed Jouahri, gen­eral manager of Casa Events and Animation.
Casablanca, Morocco’s biggest city with more than 5 million in­habitants, has been without an international festival for decades. The Casa Festival is expected to re­vive the city’s cultural and leisure scene.
Entertainers who took part in this year’s festival included Gloria Gaynor, Five Star, French Montana, Dizzy Dros and Maher Zain in ad­dition to Moroccan artists such as Nass El Ghiwane and Jil Jilala.
Gaynor, the American singer whose songs have marked genera­tions, dazzled the crowd with her signature song “I will survive.”
“I’m very pleased to be here. It’s my third time in Morocco and it’s always been wonderful. I love com­ing here,” said Gaynor.
Morocco-born French Montana, whose real name is Karim Khar­bouch, drew a record-breaking crowd July 8 at the Toro Space for his first concert in his homeland.
“I can’t believe I’m watching French Montana live in Casablanca and for free. It’s a dream come true. At last we can say that Casablanca has a real international festival,” said Jihane, a 22-year-old student who attended with her sisters and friends.
French Montana is a well-known American rapper. He has dozens of hits and has collaborated with the biggest names in the US rap scene, including Puff Diddy, Drake, Nicki Minaj and Snoop Dogg.
Montana took to social media to share his favourite moments with his fans during his visit in Casa­blanca.
“Used to stay up all night telling my aunt my dreams, until I had to leave Morocco and not see her for 15 years. Last night she watched my dreams come to life. A picture worth a thousand words,” Montana wrote on Instagram on his first en­counter with his aunt after 15 years.
The festival opening ceremony included a parade by street artists depicting the daily life in Casa­blanca. An electro parade filled Casablanca’s streets with tribal and hypnotic rhythms.
Lebanese singer Maher Zain, who is married to a Moroccan, in­teracted with the crowd with his religious songs.
Film enthusiasts flocked to Sidi Bernoussi beach to watch movies in the open air.
Urban art creation was en­hanced by “CasaMouja” in part­nership with graffiti and paint­ing artists as the city’s walls were adorned with a second wave of colours to make them more lively, welcom­ing and unique.
Street art was celebrated with national and interna­tional participants in street theatre, circus and tales in all the major public squares of Casablanca.
At the same time as Casa Festival, the first “Shop in Casa­blanca” festival was organised to revive the city’s shopping dis­tricts, such as the long-neglected Boulevard Prince Moulay Abdellah shopping area.