The Music of Morocco

Nov 10, 2021

For the last several months we’ve been taking some time to explore the music of the world. We’ve explored the Caribbean with music from Cuba, and Trinidad & Tobago, and south and Latin America with the music of Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Mexico, as well as their Spanish roots. And lately, we’ve been exploring the music of Africa, with showcases of music from West Africa and South Africa. This week we’re continuing our look at Africa, with the music of Morocco!

With a deep history, Morocco enjoys a rich musical culture and history. And with award-winning rock bands and genre-bending electronic artists coming out of the country, it might be surprising to learn that traditional Moroccan rhythms and instruments can still be found in modern Moroccan music. Let’s dive into some of the oldest music on the planet!

Traditional Moroccan Music


In a nutshell, Al-Ala is a Moroccan traditional form of Andalusian music. As you may guess from the name, Andalusian music originated in Spain, and is something of a blend of Spanish and Arab music, performed with classical instruments. Moroccan cities like Fez, Tetouan, Tangier, and Chefchauen are home to some of the world’s most renowned Andalusian orchestras.

As Andalusian music is considered part of the world’s longest and oldest traditions of art, the music is most often played during religious ceremonies. Morocco has become well known for the most impressive displays of this traditional music.

Songs of this genre usually start with a nice, slow instrumental part before several verses are sung in free time, and end with a rhythm great for dancing.


The Imazighen people (the singular of which is “Amazigh”), commonly known as the Berbers, call Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Western Sahara, Mauritania, the Canary Islands, and Egypt their homes. And their music differs across this huge region.

The Amazigh community in southern Morocco typically includes dancing, poetry, singing, and percussion in their unique music.


Chaabi music refers to a fairly wide group of genres that can be collectively referred to as “folk” music throughout north Africa. The use of common and popular language and the creation of new rhythms has helped chaabi not only survive, but thrive. In fact, this popular form of music is most often heard at weddings, festivals, and other moments of celebration.

Another component of many chaabi songs is the non-traditional themes and social issues. In fact, one popular performer, Najat Aatabou, has songs that deal with being a woman in Morocco, and touches on non-traditional topics like infidelity among men.


Gnawa is a mystical form of music that originated in West Africa. Musicians of this genre are respected for their spiritual performances. The rhythms of Gnawa use distinctive duple and triple meters.

Gnawa songs are usually played with a three-string camel skin bass instrument called a hajhouj, heavy castanets called krakebs, and religious chanting. The lyrics are usually only a few lines repeated over and over, creating a trance-like state in the musicians.

Gnawa music has been a critical part of Moroccan Sufi spiritual traditions for centuries. The music is said to bring on a trance state, inspiring ecstasy, by utilizing a variety of rhythms and repeated melodies.


A unique blend of traditional drum patterns, melodies, and instruments, along with Western electronic music, Raï rose to popularity in Algeria in the 1920s. Most commonly found in Morocco along the Algerian border, Raï musicians tend to tackle taboo topics, and make commentary on social and political movements.


A traditional form of music usually played in public spaces, malhun is typically performed with spoken and sung poetry, interspersed with musical verses. With each verse, the number of instruments grows until the entire band is playing.

Modern Moroccan Music


Moroccan funk was pioneered by musician Abdelakabir Faradjallah and his multi-generation family band, Attarazat Addahabia. Their unique sound blended the traditional music of Morocco with western funk in their album El Hadaoui.

Jil Jilala, another Moroccan funk group, rose to popularity in the 1970s. Influenced greatly by Gnawa music, they sing exclusively in an old form of Moroccan Arabic. Their music is meant to help rejuvenate traditional Moroccan music played by the Sufi people. In an effort to do that, their most recent album offers up some novel digital elements.


Rock and roll has been fairly popular in Morocco since at least the 1970s, with several Moroccan groups putting their own spin in the largely Western genre.

Larbi Batma, a Moroccan singer, musician, poet, author, and actor was also the frontman for the band Nass El Ghiwane. Originally formed in Casablanca in the 1970, the band went on to become an influential part of modern Chaabi music. What’s more, they were the first Moroccan band to introduce Western instruments to their music, like the modern banjo.


One of the key characteristics of hip-hop is its repetitive beats laid over the lyrical vocals. This can also be said of traditional Moroccan music’s trance-like rhythm and poetry in the form of spoken word lyrics. This innate similarity has led to a natural blending.

This new, Moroccan-style of hip-hop appeals to an international audience of Arab-speakers. Often featuring auto-tuned vocals, the words are overlaid on beats created digitally. Although uniquely Moroccan, this music has a distinct Western hip-hop influence.

Is it long past time for you to start your musical journey? Maybe you have children who are showing an interest in learning to play an instrument? Either way, The Music Studio’s professional instruction is here to help you along your path to music!

We’ve got programs for all ages and skill levels, so if you’re just starting out, or coming back after some time away from lessons, we’ve got the perfect program for you! And now most of them are available online! Visit our website and sign up today.