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Morocco’s top music festival ends but not without glamour, glitz

The Gnaoua festival has already worked its magic on Essaouira. The city of wind has vibrated on the sound of magical Gnaoua music coming from Moulay El Hassan Place for the first evening of the Gnaoua World Music Festival

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The Gnaoua festival has already worked its magic on Essaouira. The city of wind has vibrated on the sound of magical Gnaoua music coming from Moulay El Hassan Place for the first evening of the Gnaoua World Music Festival.

From June 21 until June 23, the 21st Gnaoua World Music Festival is a musical communion full of emotions, as much for the artists as for the public. This year’s festival has followed the tradition, starting with a colorful opening parade from Maâlems (Gnaoua singers) in Essaouira’s Bab Doukkal.

The ceremony was attended by André Azoulay, adviser to the King and founding president of the Essaouira-

Mogador Association, and Neila Tazi, the event’s producer.

The show kicked off with a mesmerizing encounter between the legendary American jazz fusion band Snarky Puppy and the unbeatable Maâlem Gnaoui Hamid El Kasri, who together delighted the festival-goers with fresh and resounding melodies, the fruit of a four-day artistic residency in Essaouira.

Through exclusive compositions, Snarky Puppy, a collective accustomed to collaborating with artists of all stripes, conquered the music lovers who danced and sang relentlessly to the new rhythms brought to the most famous songs by Maâlem Hamid El Kasri, such as “La Illaha Illa Lah”, “Bania,” or “Assalat Ala Nabi.”

“Being able to play, like tonight, alongside great musicians and spend several days learning new things from them is an incredible opportunity,” said Snarky Puppy’s bassist and composer Michael League to the MAP.

“Gnaoua music has a particular spiritual significance that submerges the body and makes it go into a trance,” the three-time Grammy award winner added.

A new generation of maâlems from Casablanca, made up of Ismael Rahil, Brahim Hamam and Khalid Sansi, were then invited to the mythical scene, located between the beach and the old medina of the port city, to give a warm show, shouting loudly that a Tagnaouite (Gnaoua) youth is there to ensure the succession of this oral heritage.

Following the energetic band, the Moroccan group of fusion rock, hip hop, funk and folklore, Hoba Hoba Spirit took the stage to present their latest 13-track “Kamayanbaghi,” released in January 2018, reflecting the richness and diversity of the festival which always has new music in the program.

This unique musical event in Morocco began in 1998. Its purpose is to connect people with music and to allow listeners to forget life’s reality for a moment and indulge in spirituality.

“Since the birth of the festival, its unique character has given it a place of choice in cultural events that have confirmed to the world that Africa is more than ever a land of dialogue and creation,” said Neila Tazi.

The Gnaoua festival attracts an audience of 300,000 visitors each year. It offers a varied program to celebrate the Gnaoua heritage and to invite the best global jazz artists to come and perform in Essaouira.

At the festival, the singers, called maâlems, begin to chant in Arabic or Gnaoui. The message is usually spiritual.

Culture

Ghanaian social media influencer Hajia4Reall pleads guilty in $2m romance scam case in US

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Ghanaian social media influencer, Mona Faiz Montrage, popularly known as Hajia4Reall, has pleaded guilty in a $2 million romance scam case in the United States.

The United States Attorney’s Office reported on Wednesday that Hajia4Reall who was arrested in the UK last year and extradited to the US, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to receive stolen money, and could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison.

The Attorney Office added that Hajia4Reall also agreed to forfeit the sum of $2,164,758.41, as well as make restitution in the same amount while her sentencing is scheduled to be conducted by U.S. District Judge, Paul A. Crotty, at a date yet to be stated.

US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, who addressed journalists after the court hearing on Wednesday, confirmed the socislite’s guilty plea which he said emphasized the seriousness of the crime.

Williams explained that the accused knowingly accepted money stolen from older Americans through romance scams, and as a consequence, she faces significant legal ramifications.

“This Office and our law enforcement partners are relentless in bringing fraudsters who target Americans to justice, no matter where they are,” the Attorney said.

He explained that Hajia4Reall, a socialite turned musician, was extradited to the United States from the United Kingdom over her alleged involvement in a $2 million romance scam which is locally called ‘Sakawa’ in her native Ghana, targeting older, single Americans, in May 2023.

During the hearing, prosecutors said she was charged with conspiracy to commit and committing wire fraud and money laundering, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

The prosecution noted that Hajia4Reall received money from several victims of romance frauds whom members of the syndicate tricked into sending money.

“Among the false pretences used to induce victims to send money to Hajia4Reall were payments to transport gold to the U.S. from overseas payments to resolve a fake FBI investigation, and payments to assist a fake U.S. Army officer in receiving funds from Afghanistan.

“In total, Hajia4Reall controlled bank accounts that received over $2 million in fraudulent funds from the fraud.

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Director of ‘Dahomey’ Mati Diop shines at Berlin Film Festival 2024

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Senegalese-French writer and and director of African documentary movie, “Dahomey,” Mati Diop, made history when her movie was selected for a special world premiere at the 2024 Berlin Film Festival.

She was joined by other directors of African descent including Gildas Adannou, Habib Ahandessi and Joséa Guedje at the premiere where Kenyan Hollywood actress, Lupita Nyong’o became the ever black person to head the festival’s jury.

“Dahomey” which is one of Africa’s entry in this year’s festival, is a documentary that explores colonization through the return of stolen artifacts plundered by French colonial troops and returned to Benin in West Africa.

Dahomey” follows the journey of plundered artifacts taken by French colonial troops in 1892, being sent from Paris to the Republic of Benin and the impact of their return.

Other African films selected for the festival include “Black Tea” by Mauritanian-born Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako, and “Who Do I Belong To” by Tunisian-Canadian director Meryam Joobeur.

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