By Eddahmani Abdeselam
Rabat – After being cancelled last year, Casablanca’s flagship festival is coming back Sept. 15 to 24. Morocco World News caught up with Mohamed Merhari, also known as “Momo,” one of the founders of L’Boulevard, to talk about the festival’s comeback and the new features of its 17th edition.
Why did L’Boulevard not take place last year?
Momo: The problem is we are small team. We were so busy with the Boultek [music center] that we got there a little too late. There were also some financial problems that were playing a bit [of a role], but we also assume our share of responsibility in the absence of this festival. This year we took the time to prepare our sponsorship files, our media planning; these are things that we know how to do, but that require time. We would better be late than risk L’Boulevard’s reputation.
What are the new features of L’Boulevard’s 17th edition?
Momo: This edition, the “Tremplin” [talent show] will change premises. It is going to be organized at Al Amal complex on Sept. 15, 16, and 17 to give it more visibility. Two groups per category will be rewarded by a jury with a check of MAD 10,000 for first place and MAD 5,000 for second, but above all [is] the opportunity for the award-winning groups to benefit from assistance and training, led by professionals, in the recording of two songs.
The winners will also be able to play during the first part of scheduled concerts for the confirmed groups. Nightly concerts, as well as the now-traditional souk gathering some 30 stands and collectives, will accompany this first part. Concerning L’Boulevard, it is taking place on the Sept. 22, 23, and 24 at the R.U.C. stadium.
This year’s program features a number of internationally-renowned artists, such as the American hip hop crew M.O.P, the French metal band Dagoba, the Pakistani band The Kominas, and the Nigerian singer Keziah Jones, in addition to the Moroccan rapper Masta Flow, the Moroccan metal group Betweenatna, and the Moroccan diva Oum.
In parallel with the major concerts, a space dedicated to programmers, festival directors, and other music professionals will also be held on the sidelines of this new edition, a cultural market where professionals can discover Moroccan artists and possibly host them at international festivals.
The result of several artistic residencies will be presented to the general public on this stage, such as the JokkoFam residence (gathering rappers and djettes from Morocco, Senegal, Mauritania, and Mali), Betweenatna, which will join its energy to that of the group The Kominas for the Rock/Metal day, and finally the Viento y Arena.
There is a remarkable difference between this festival’s poster and years before. Why?
Momo: It is the work of one of the most talented graphic artists and illustrators of this country, who did it for us for free. On the other hand, we gave him total freedom for his creation. Of course, there is a committee of graphic designers who develops the concept. In fact, we have always made posters that are relevant to current events. At the springboard 2011, you could see February 20. It is also and above all a work of art that everyone can interpret as he pleases. Of course, there is an idea behind it, but ultimately everyone can interpret it as he wishes.
Being one of the founders of L’Boulevard festival, you are considered by some as the “Godfather” of the new era’s artists. How do you see the future of urban culture in Morocco?
Momo: For me, I think that things are going much better now that there are many places where artists can work such as Boultek and l’Uzine. Back in the day, artists couldn’t afford such well-equipped studios or even a microphone. But frankly speaking, nowadays artists are strong technically. They have all they need, thanks to technical developments, but they lack creativity.
We have big names in variety music such as Saad Lamjarred and Asma Lmnawar but their music is just like fast food, and Fnair, for instance, they are no longer doing hip-hop; they are variety artists. Things have changed. You can’t compare Ahmed Chawki with Hoba Hoba Spirit, not the same energy. It is not exclusive to Morocco, it’s a global phenomenon. It appears that misery is the source of great creativity.
Any last word to L’Boulevard fans?
Momo: Welcome to the 17th edition of L’Boulevard. Fun is guaranteed. There are activities for all ages. Our festival has become a familial reunion. It’s just great to see that mentalities have changed.
Today many of those who attended the festival in its first editions have become parents and still attend but now companied with their children.