Misty, a dancer and Mohamed a world renowned musician, born in Ouarzazate, Morocco have been guiding one of a kind tours of Morocco for the last 8 years. Word of mouth has gained them the trusted insider relationship with travelers and locals all over Morocco. Read more about Misty and Mohamed below.
Santa Cruz Sentinel Article About Us:
In the 1942 film “Casablanca,” Humphrey Bogart played the character Rick Blaine, proprietor of an upscale nightclub and gambling den in Casablanca. The character had to choose between his love for a woman and helping her Czech Resistance leader husband escape the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis. “Casablanca” went on to win three Academy Awards and introduced millions of Americans to a part of the world that most had never heard of. The movie provided small glimpses into the rich cultural tapestry of the North African country of Morocco.
Morocco covers 172,410 square miles and while its capital is Rabat, the largest city is Casablanca. Morocco has a history of independence not shared by its neighbors. Its rich culture is a blend of Arab, Berber (indigenous African) and other African and European influences. Morocco’s music reflects the many cultural styles that have come to influence the country over thousands of years. Whether it is Europe to the north or the Arabic influences from the east or those influences from other African cultures, Moroccan music is hard to define. With a multitude of languages and dialects used in Moroccan culture, Moroccan music reflects the diversity of its people.
Musician Mohamed Aoualou grew up in Ouarzazate, Morocco, playing the guitar and drums since he was a child. He and his wife Misty, a dancer, perform throughout the Bay Area bringing a sampling of Moroccan culture to Northern California. Along with teaching weekly music and dance classes in Santa Cruz, Mohamed and Misty organize annual tours of Morocco, taking visitors to their favorite cultural corners of the country, traveling from the ocean to the desert. This March they will be leading a tour that focuses on the ancient art of belly dancing. The tours reflect the great diversity and beauty of this North African country.
I caught up with Mohamed and Misty at their studio to talk about Moroccan music and Morocco.
Kirby Scudder: Moroccan music has such a rich sound. How would you define Moroccan music?
Mohamed Aoualou: Moroccan music is just as diversified as the Moroccan culture. The music comes from all the different cultures that came through Morocco since it is located in a very strategic place. It is on the very northern tip of Africa and only eight miles from Spain. So we have influences from the Middle East as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. You cannot really talk about Moroccan music. There are lots of musics. Different regions have different styles of music. We also have different time signatures, like six eight and sevens and tens, fives. So it is very rich. I play string instruments, I play guitar and oud. Oud is an 11-string fretless instrument. It’s the ancestor of the guitar. It’s a beautiful instrument that is played all over the Middle East and North Africa. I also play percussion instruments.
KS: You are both artists, how did you come to lead tours of Morocco?
Misty Aoualou: We wanted to take people to our favorite places so that they could experience the incredible culture in Morocco. So, for the past few years we have been leading tours of Morocco and we consider the trips to be a taste of Morocco. We get a chance to introduce people to the diversity that the country offers. As an example, many people have never experienced the desert before. We always knew that we wanted to incorporate more music education as well as entertainment. So, this year we have Jill Parker, a belly dancer who is based out of San Francisco and is internationally known and who has traveled often to Morocco and has a great love of the culture. She will be teaching and dancing and performing. We are both really excited.