Moroccan Chaabi

Moroccan Chaabi
Performed mostly at festivals, weddings and other celebrations, Chaabi (meaning “of the people” in Arabic) is a modern popular form of music in Morocco influenced from various forms of Moroccan folk music. Not unlike Algerian Rai, during the 70s the Chaabi musical form quickly adopted the keyboard, electric guitar and increasingly controversial lyrics concerning politics, love and everyday life. Controversial lyrics, especially within Chaabi Ghiwane songs, resulted in the exile and imprisonment of artists, although the overall repercussions were much less severe than those suffered by Algerian Rai artists.


A typical Chaabi Aita music performance.

A very recognisable Chaabi musical style is a 12/8 rhythm, divided into two rapid 6/8 segments, one in 2-2-2, the other in 3-3. A song will eventually settle into a question-and-answer routine, before it suddenly breaks into a ‘leseb’, an exhilarating speed-up of the original tempo. The band will often accompanied by a group of female dancers. The Chaabi dancing style is endemic to Morocco: it involves a form of hip movement and hair swaying which descended from the remnants of Arabo-Andalusian culture, and is thus linked to Spanish Flamenco dancing. Chaabi music and dance is also very influenced by several musical styles including arabic Sufi music, Gnawa (a moroccan musical style originating from Sub-Saharan Africa brought to Morocco over the centuries through the saharan slave trade), Berber folk music, and western pop music.


A modern, tackier Chaabi music and dance performance. This performance includes the ‘leseb’ – or speed-up of the tempo, towards the end of the piece.

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