Moroccan heavy metal

When I think Morocco, I think belly dancing. I had the pleasure of working with a Moroccan last year; she hosted our company holiday party, and it included much of said belly dancing. It was then, while listening to the jingle of my co-worker’s tiny coin skirt and munching on a sugar cookie, that my ears and eyes were opened in awe to North African sounds of the exotic Morocco.
You can imagine what I expected to find then as I started my search for the top album sales in Morocco… but I didn’t find any top album sales. I couldn’t find any lists whatsoever on what is selling the most, even after several bilingual searches! So I shifted my angle. What is being reported on in the music scene from Morocco then? Much to my chagrin, I’ve come to find that it’s heavy metal.
Heavy metal is definitely inching its way to the forefront of progressive music in Morocco, stirring up the locals and attracting international attention all the while. My searches kept taking me to Mark LeVine, a musician and Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History, Culture, and Islamic Studies at the University of California, Irvine. LeVine just recently wrote a book about the rise of heavy metal across the Middle East. He spent a few years around the Middle East following this phenomenon in such strict Muslim cultures, and found that heavy metal, reggae, hip-hop, rock, punk, and ska are becoming more and more prevalent as younger individuals are starting to push for more social and political freedom. Rap has long been instilled in Morocco as a voice for change (rap and hip-hop seem to be deep in most francophone countries as well as ska and reggae) but heavy metal is the newest of the progressive vessels.
Progress and change does not come without criticism though, and heavy metal getting a little louder in Muslim countries is no exception. Many heavy metal musicians are accused of creating satanic material, going against good morals and having bad intentions. Doesn’t that sound a little familiar? Grams and Gramps definitely gave me a few good talking-to’s when I was younger and wore baggy clothes and chains…It seems like it might be a little more intense in Morocco though, as some young Moroccans have been thrown in prison for playing heavy metal. The rap scene in Morocco went through the same struggles, but now it’s extremely mainstream, so there is still hope for the hard rockers of the Middle East!
Some highlighted heavy metal bands from Morocco that you can check out online are: Ephemeral Promise, Damned Creation, Xenophiliya, and Hammerhead – all of whom played at one of the biggest heavy metal concerts in Morocco earlier this year.
If you’re not into the heavy metal scene, I would definitely suggest picking up LeVine’s book Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam; it’s at the top of my list for winter break reading. Since there were no top albums to cover, the words for this week are: Moroccan Heavy Metal. This should no longer be a puzzling phrase, but a phrase that implies social and political progress for countries across the Middle East; heavy definition? That’s heavy metal.

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