Being long term attendees of Glastonbury, we knew we had to book our flights when we heard the Beat Hotel stage was travelling to Marrakech.
Housed in the luxurious Fellah Hotel, a boutique environment just south of the city, the festival carried a sense of intimacy usually associated with private parties. The unique location was framed with stunning views of the Atlas Mountains and boasted a cross-section of carefully programmed music, world renowned chefs, films, workshops and talks from some of today’s great minds.
Despite unfortunate weather conditions on Saturday and a want for a more diverse offering of Moroccan artists, the festival's inaugural year had a lot going for it. The intimate live shows, talks by leading cultural commentators, poolside sessions with the likes of Gilles Peterson and late night secret villa parties gave Beat Hotel Marrakech a first outing that will no doubt see it return.
We took the opportunity to link up with a handful of up and coming artists to discuss what travel means to them and get an insight into the creative scene in their respective hometowns.
Kat La Kat is a deep house DJ, producer and sound engineer from South Africa that has earned somewhat legendary status over the past few years, largely thanks to his ‘Deep Vibes’ mix series.
We spoke to Kat La Kat about his thoughts on travel and the creative process. To him, existing as an artist in your community alone is limiting - you’re in a bubble. Experiencing the unknown is key and travel unlocks “a whole different world” of fresh experiences. “You pick up a lot of things you can use in your own creativity”.
Having grown up in Pretoria, he relocated to Johannesburg to experience diversity and the underground music scene. “Jo’burg is a melting pot of different cultures. It’s the biggest economy in the country, so there are a lot of people from all over either just visiting or actually moving here. They’re always bringing their culture and influences that inspire the music scene. The city has a lot of platforms for different kinds of music and the underground scene is really healthy.”
For all you music heads that are planning a trip to Jo’burg, make sure you check out Kat La Kat’s guide for the best hidden gems.
Nabihah Iqbal, pegged as a ‘trailblazer for Asian women in rock’ is about as versatile as you can get. She boasts a BA in History and Ethnomusicology from SOAS, a MPhil (focused on African history) from Cambridge, experience working in human rights law and a black belt in Karate.
Aside from releasing music via Ninja Tune, Nabihah hosts a bi-weekly show on NTS Radio, where she explores music from different parts of the world. She believes that travel is one of the best forms of education and her experiences within other cultures has had a huge influence on her. Nabihah told us that people are always a bit shocked when she talks about playing gigs in a place like Russia or China. “When you get there you realise it’s got that raw energy, an amazing music scene, sick underground parties in old abandoned factories and we simply don’t see that on the news. You have to go there. You have to experience it yourself, and it really does broaden your horizons.”
Born and bred in central London, Nabihah shed light on her love for her hometown. People often complain about clubs closing down but she believes its part of the cities beauty. “The thing about London is you’ll never be able to suppress its energy, so things might close down but other things will pop up and there will always be people pushing forward making music and putting on parties. That raw energy can never be destroyed and that’s what I love about it so much.”
Check Nabihah’s guide of London to find out some of her favourite spots across the city.
Coco Em is a DJ based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her set at the Beat Hotel took us through an eclectic musical journey, diving into old and new school hip hop, afro house, kuduro, kwaito and lingala.
We discussed how social media has drastically changed the music scene in Nairobi over the last couple of years. It's provided artists with a portal for inspiration and facilitates a creative exchange that simply wasn’t happening before. Kenyan artists are taking Western music and fusing it with sounds from their own culture creating a new sound that is both progressive and heavily rooted in tradition. Coco Em told us that “right now, trap is the biggest wave coming through the young kids. They’re really switching it up. Introducing local slang to it which we call “sheng" here in Nairobi - a mixture of English and Swahili. There’s even a genre that has evolved called “shrap”, which is amazing. I think right now we’re going through a metamorphosis in music and it's amazing to witness.”
Check out Coco Em's top spots in her hometown Narobi.
Named after Casablanca’s railway station, Casa Voyager is a record label driving the underground music scene in Morocco. Taking inspiration from their stints living abroad, they’re pushing the boundaries of what people in the region expect from electro and breakbeats.
Casa Voyager are trying to create an underground culture in a place it’s never been done before. There simply is nothing to go by so they’re adopting a super DIY approach; making their own rules, pushing boundaries and creating space for other collectives to come together, throw parties and make stuff happen too.
It’s an interesting time now there’s a third electronic music festival in Morocco but these guys are really focusing on developing the local club scene. They told us that “it’s not the same as places like London. People just stare at the DJ and don’t actually enjoy the music. We want to change that by opening the people’s minds to new sounds, aesthetics and ultimately creating a real culture within the area.”
If you’re trippin to Casablanca any time soon then make sure you check out their guide for the best spots to hit while in town.