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Morocco’s Maâlems Demonstrate What It Takes to Become a Maestro

The Gnaoua music festival takes place once a year in the town of Essaouira, western Morocco. But the town has become a major destination for maâlems – or master musicians – who meet and play in the Moroccan town all year long. RFI met two generations of Gnaoua maâlems, Seddik Laarch and his former student Mohamed Boumazzough.

Laarch, a musician and guembri maker, is well-known in Essaouira. He taught most of the young generation of maâlems in the Moroccan city, as well as people from as far afield as the US, China and Israel.

Laarch also played and toured in France with several Gnaoua bands.

“To be a good maâlem you need discipline, respect and to play from the heart,” Laarch told RFI.

His former student Boumazzough says there is great respect for maâlems in the Gnaoua tradition.

“Even if the maâlem gives you the instrument, you do not play in front of him [or her] out of respect. You wait until you are told to play,” he explains.

“Every day, you are told: ‘You’ve got to practice.’ Everyone plays a bit.”

Boumazzough has played with some of the greatest Gnaoua maestros alive today, as well as French musicians including Louis Bertignac.

He has been performing since the age of 17, and is now a maâlem himself.

Source : RFI