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Between Renewal and Extraction: Ghiwanien Methodologies in Moroccan Heritage Pop
Nass el-Ghiwane is widely acknowledged as the first Moroccan band to create a “national” music that resonated with the trans-Atlantic trends of the 1960s and 70s. By bringing gestures from multiple regions and practices together, they recuperated low-status groups’ musics for a broad public through, not despite, the folkloric paradigm established by colonial-era curators and affirmed by post-colonial elites. Today, the bands is just as often cited as the founders of a tradition of protest song that hip hop and other popular musicians have inherited. While many hip hop emcees have adopted the strategies of deflection and inference celebrated in Nass el-Ghiwane’s lyrics, the band’s effect on popular musicians’ tactics of reference, quotation, and arrangement is less often recognized. In this paper, I explore the Ghiwanien aesthetic and methodologies at work in Morocco’s contemporary “heritage pop.” I define heritage pop as music that fits indices of marginalized identities into universalizing, “western” popular-music frameworks, resignifying them as valuable raw materials for cosmopolitan finished products whose underlying musical norms remain unchanged. Using examples from hip hop, pop, and fusion, and supporting my audio and visual analysis with interviews and participant-observation, I argue that these songs refine a poetics and politics of extraction seen in Moroccan tourism and other industries and usefully theorized through Anibal Quijano’s concept of the coloniality of power (1992). Unlike past and present understandings of Nass el-Ghiwane, in which the band represented dissent through the sonic traces of the other, the musicians in use similar techniques to the very different effect of creating newly salable heritage objects for national and international consumption. Regarding some musical mixes as performances of extraction can enhance our understanding of how popular music mediates inter-class and inter-ethnic relations in Morocco.
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