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Morocco for Pop Music


Fes during festival season. Can you spot Björk?   

New York to Morocco = 7 1/2 hours

Long associated with labyrinthine souks and camel treks, this North African country has come into its own on the international music circuit—and not just for world beats. These days, the spandex-clad jokesters of LMFAO are as likely to play a festival here as French-Iranian group Nour Ensemble, painting an enticing portrait of sonic multiculturalism. Rabat’s Festival Mawazine (May 18 to 26; festivalmawazine.ma)—which is expecting 2.3 million attendees this year—pairs Moroccan artists with an A-team roster of pop and rock heavyweights like Mariah Carey, Evanescence, Pitbull, Lenny Kravitz, and Gloria Gaynor. A similar mix is on call for the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music (June 8 to 16; fesfestival.com), whose bill touts Björk, Joan Baez, and Pakistan’s Sanam Marvi. Agadir’s Timitar Festival (June 27 to 30; festivaltimitar.ma) draws more than 500,000 fans with North African Berber music and acts from the Souss Massa Drâa region. In fall, the thirteenth annual ­TANJAzz ­Festival (September 19 to 24; tanjazz.org) books Moroccan acts like Majid Bekkas right alongside American players like Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers. Even the locals are onboard with the burgeoning festival scene: Rabat pub Upstairs (8 Av. Michliffen; 2125-3767-4111) hosts nightly gigs during Mawazine; Tangier’s Atlas RIF & Spa hotel (from $94; 152 Ave. Mohamed VI; hotelsatlas.com) has offered free dance lessons and concerts for ­TANJAzz attendees; while the Riad Fes (from $200; 5 Derb Ben Slimane Zerbtana; riadfes.com) invites Fes Fest musicians to dinner and, in its adjacent garden, puts on a free show that lasts well into the night.


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