Rhyme & Rhythm in Morocco

Total read time of 10 minutes with videos.

In a few days from today, it will be one year since I set foot on Moroccan soil to join 14 other IBM colleagues, from across the globe, to participate in what was the tenth edition of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) mission in Morocco. Fondly known as Morocco10, we were a motley bunch of explorers committed to strengthening our leadership skills and creating a better world.

Professionally speaking, Morocco10 was the trigger to my taking to the social sector post-retirement from IBM. Whilst we absorbed an awful lot in terms of skill building and expertise, what struck me the most was the multicultural environment and the soft skills that one got exposed to. Among several takeaways, the one that lingered a lot was my new-found appreciation of Moroccan culture and the upping of global fluency.

As I look back, the one reminiscence that dominates was the consistent exposure to Moroccan music and dance through the five weeks that I was there. I think Moroccans have music in their blood and break out into dance at the slightest excuse. Whether you go hiking or picnicking; whether you head to a night market or to a famous landmark, people are willing to get into the song and dance act at the drop of a hat.

Here are some videos of the several encounters I had.

At the Medina in Rabat, 22 Secs

Notice the old man playing the gimbri.  Interestingly, the three-stringed instrument is also used to play percussion


Whilst Hiking in the Rif Mountains, 25 Secs

We saw hikers taking a break enroute to the Cascade (waterfall). They couldn’t wait to get to the peak and instead broke into dance with their tambourines.


At the Night Market at Marrakech, 59 Secs

This is perhaps the most touristy of all spots in all of Morocco and where the music is adapted to synthesise with the backgrounds of tourists across the world.


At a Camp in the Moroccan Sahara (Merzouga), 2 mins 25 secs

This was almost at midnight and in the company of sand dunes and a flock of tourists from Paraguay. Notice, how the number starts; slows down to accommodate the Paraguayan tourists; then gets into full rhythm. And the grand finale! Moroccan percussions rock!!!


At the Todgha Canyon, 39 secs

On our way back from Merzouga to Ourzazette, we made a pit-stop at Todgha, a smaller version of the Grand Canyon. Were surprised to see hordes of domestic tourists and several groups performing their own renditions.


At the Atlas Studio, Ourzazette, 35 Secs

This world-famous Atlas Studio is not in Hollywood but in small town Ourzazette in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. It has produced all-time greats such as Lawrence of Arabia, Patton and Gladiator. Here is a group of people getting into dance with a simple pair of tambourines. Observe the shrill sound at the end of the video


At the Radisson Hotel, Ourzazette, 1 min 10 Secs

Perhaps it was the best for the last. Our hotel had organised a troupe of traditional folk dancers for guests and most of them were drawn into. The ambience was extraordinary.


In the five weeks that I spent in Morocco, I observed their music has more rhythm than rhyme.  But five weeks is too short a period for a culture whose music roots run deep and which is blessed with several genres of music, Andalusian, Berber, Chaabi/Griha, Gnawa, Malhun, Ra’l and Sephardic to name a few. And am not surprised that the culture possesses far more string instruments than I thought, for instance, the oud, qanun, kamenjah.

One year after CSC, I realise my thinking has undergone such a change and my thoughts have drifted to whether we can apply blockchain to create a repository of world music. I also wonder, can we not use design thinking to design a life; an aggregation of experiences and not merely focus on one-off experiences through consuming a service or buying a product.  The world of  citizen diplomacy and global fluency can help in breaking down narrow domestic walls. And an appreciation of world music, rhyme or rhythm or both, can play a central role.

Shakti is a former IBMer, management consultant and banker who is a crossover to the impact sector. He can be reached at saranshaks@gmail.com

5 thoughts on “Rhyme & Rhythm in Morocco

Add yours

  1. It just struck me, Shakti, how present those different types of music where, including Idir listening to his personal music during the 10hr Landcruiser ride towards Merzouga.
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, indeed Ulrich! The drive to Merzouga and back is among the most memorable road journeys I’ve undertaken and Idir’s music made the journey so much more enchanting.


  3. Hi Shakti ! I really loved your blog and particularly this article describing this colorful and beautiful side of Morocco. Your words at the end of the article were extremely meaningful.
    I hope to meet you another day may be!

    Liked by 1 person

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