Gnaoua Festival promotes openness, tolerance
By Hassan Benmehdi for Magharebia in Essaouira – 27/06/12
Once again, the Gnaoua World Music Festival in Essaouira attracted a large number of visitors eager to experience the magic of music.
The fifteenth run of the festival, which was held from June 21st-24th, gave visitors to Essaouira a chance to sample both Gnaoua heritage and music from other parts of the world.
Organisers said that the festival has always served as a forum for sharing, exchange, tolerance and openness towards different cultures and civilisations.
In a press statement, the president of the Mogador Essaouira Association, André Azoulay, underlined that culture was an exceptional medium that can succeed where ideologies fail.
During his speech at the opening ceremony, Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad said that the festival symbolised absorption of diversity within a rich and varied universal culture.
On the side-lines of the event, the organisers invited a large number of academics, politicians and civil-society figures to discuss the role of culture and sharing at a time of political change across the Arab world.
The speakers all sought to demonstrate that creativity, cultural expression and free artistry were vehicles for protecting universal values.
Driss El Yazami, the president of the National Human Rights Council (CNDH), insisted that the main challenge on the agenda was to promote the values of exchange and openness and to avoid loss of identity, regression and exclusion.
This view was shared by the secretary-general of the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS), Nabil Benabdellah, who stressed the importance and urgency of reconciling politics with culture in order to promote the universal values of freedom, tolerance and diversity.
As in previous years, a decent crowd made the trip to Essaouira for what has become an annual ritual.
This year's event, which featured Gnaoui, jazz and world music, was graced by renowned artists from countries including Senegal, the United States, Pakistan and France.
The festival began on June 21st with a big parade featuring singing and dancing.
Adil, Ahmed, Loubna and Safia, a group of young students from Casablanca, told Magharebia that as each year goes by, they become more and more passionate about the musical melting-pot that Essaouira represents.
"We're fans of the festival, but the timing is bad because it clashes with exam season," they said.
This year's Gnaoua World Music Festival in Essaouira also saw the launch of a number of projects to restore historic buildings in the city. Agreements to create a new social and cultural centre to boost Mogador's appeal were also signed.
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