Woodstock Maroc

If you’re tired of the commercial nature of modern music festivals, Luke Wilson suggests an alternative in Morocco

There can be few bigger buzzes in life than discovering new music that leaves you with goosebumps from head to toe and instantly becomes the soundtrack to your life.

Fans are blessed with an abundance of festivals across the globe, crossing all genres and cultural divides. Few though, have had such an impact on musos that they have been dubbed the “Moroccan Woodstock”.

Staged in the picturesque port town of Essaouira, the Gnaoua & World Music Festival celebrates one of the nation’s most prominent and spiritual musical movements.

But rather than fly straight in for the event, the Songlines Music Travel trip lets you first take in the sights and sounds of vibrant Marrakech. A guided tour around the ancient city will show visitors Bahia Palace, Saadian tombs and the famous Djemaael-Fna marketplace.

However, next day comes the headline event as you are driven to Essaouira, which local legend claims partly inspired the Jimi Hendrix track, Castles Made of Sand.

Although the main stage is on the Place Moulay Hassan, there are others scattered around the town showcasing the deep trance played by the performers, or Gnawas.

While this traditional music remains at the core, with the legendary Moroccan ensemble Nass el-Ghiwane having headlined previously. The festival has also been graced by such diverse acts as Asian Dub Foundation, Youssou N’Dour and Arrested Development.

During the three-day festival you will also be given chance to familiarise yourself with the fortified town, a Unesco World Heritage Site. A trip to the fishing harbour is an experience not to be missed, while the medina is home to many local artisans selling their wares.

Dhs4,570 per person (based on two sharing for five nights), including airport transfers and festival ticket. May 11-16. Morocco, www.songlinesmusictravel.com (+44 207 501 6375).


Three top music fests

Sziget Festival, Hungary
Muse, Bloc Party and Sigur Rós will all play this week-long island shinding.
August 10-17, Budapest, www.szigetfestival.com.

Lake of Stars, Malawi

Foals (pictured) and Young Fathers popped up on Lake Malawi last year.
September 30 to October 2. Lake Malawi, www.lakeofstars.org.

The Great Escape, UK

A showcase of new talent held in venues across the super-cool city.
May 19-21, Brighton, www.greatescapefestival.com.

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