JUNE 27-29, 2024


Producer, Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival & CEO A3 Communiation

One day, in the 2000s, a musician friend told me: “I’ve toured all over the world, I’ve played in hundreds of festivals and I’ve never seen anything like this…What you’ve created in Essaouira is rare. Here, cultural barriers vanish into thin air and we can actually feel what peace, communion and tolerance among peoples really means.” My friend’s kind words came at a difficult time, as we were struggling to put on the Festival year after year, and they were more than comforting.  

They confirmed that the values we had always stood for were being understood; that our actions had made real impact and that the Festival, whatever the cost, must continue on a permanent basis. Because, from the start, this festival “like no other” has transcended simple entertainment to echo something more powerful. To make space for an ancestral art form to renew and reinvent itself; to provide proof that development through culture is possible; to contribute to Essaouira’s rise as a destination among the world’s great capitals of music; and to become one of the greatest emblems of Moroccan and African culture on the global stage.

This edition is special because we’ll be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival. And my emotions run high when I think back over the artistic and human adventure that we have experienced during these 25 years. Strong images enter my mind, and I’m also thinking of all the extraordinarily talented women and men who have marked the history of this Festival: artists, team members, journalists, sponsors and partners, both public and private. I cannot thank them all individually as the list is dizzyingly long, but I would like to pay particular tribute to the genius of the great Maâlems who are no longer with us: Mohamed Sam, Abderrahman Paca, Hamida Boussou, Cherif Regragui, Mahmoud and Abdellah Guinea.

25 years ago we were young and passionate about a music form threatened by oblivion, and we had immense faith in the future. Today, despite the years, challenges and obstacles we have faced, our enthusiasm and passion remain intact and we turn even more resolutely to the future of this essential project. Our dream of raising awareness and renewal for this culture has come true, with the crowning achievement of inscription on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2019. And we have more dreams and grand ambitions to fulfil for this project. 

In the words of a famous theorist of the last century, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Recognising new talent has always been one of our primary objectives. Over the years, we have set up workshops, training sessions and programs to support young musicians. We have brought forward a new generation of maâlems, and notably women, who now thrive in a field once dominated exclusively by men. This year, for the 25th anniversary of the Festival and with the intention of providing support for the next generation of musicians from Morocco, the African continent and beyond, we are launching a new training program in partnership with the world’s finest music institution, Berklee College of Music, based in Boston, USA. A partnership that is the fruit of many years of discussion with this prestigious music institution, the proof of the serious and credible international reputation enjoyed by the Festival, and the beginning of a collaboration that we hope will be long and beneficial to the development of new talent.  

We will also launch the first phase of another major project during this 25th edition: the establishment of a university chair dedicated to Gnaoua culture at the heart of the Center for African Studies at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Benguerir (UM6P), under the direction of Professor Ali Benmakhlouf. The objective of this chair, which will be inaugurated in 2025, is to create space for research to deepen the knowledge of Gnaoua culture, its origins, and its meaning. 

For this 25th edition, we have whipped up a very high-quality program for you. Over 400 artists will set fire to the Festival’s stages for 3 days of massive celebration from Essaouira’s medina to the beach. Like every year, the Gnaoua Maâlems and their guests from all corners of the planet will create unprecedented fusions, which have become the trademark of the Festival. For 3 days, festivalgoers will be invited to dance to rhythms from Spain, Senegal, the US, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Algeria and Palestine. 

I would like to conclude by extending our deepest gratitude to the media who have been by our side since the first edition in 1998, and who have largely contributed to the Festival’s success. We had no communications budget, and we have not forgotten that well before the emergence of social networks it was the media that ensured promotion and built the reputation of this Festival in Morocco and internationally. 

And also many thanks to our partners, old and new, without whom the miracle of this prodigious adventure would not return, year after year.  

We look forward to seeing you in Essaouira, June 27-29, to celebrate the first quarter-century of this unique in the world event!