Beat Hotel Marrakech: Festival Preview
With the inaugural Beat Hotel festival taking place in Marrakech less than a week away, we take a closer look at the line-up
‘Eat, drink, dance’ is the mantra that has underpinned Glastonbury’s Beat Hotel stage since its inception in 2011. Drawing inspiration from the Paris hotel of the same name frequented by Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs, et al at the height of the Beat movement, the brand’s first international excursion is a four-night affair in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, just 15 minutes outside of Marrakech.
With the festival less than a week away, and a programme bulging at the seams with films, workshops, talks, DJs and live music from artists like Young Fathers, Maribou State, Alexis Taylor and Flamingods, we've whittled it down to five acts to keep tabs on from its wide-spanning line-up.
Donna Leake is the curator at celebrated London audiophile bar Brilliant Corners, while her regular NTS show might just be the best on the station. Her trademark blend of across-the-spectrum jazz, outernational sounds and psychedelic guitars couldn’t be better suited to the vibe cultivated by the Beat Hotel over the past few years.
Interzone (Crack Magazine), Fri 29 Mar, 11pm-midnight; San Remo (Heavenly Jukebox), Sat 30 Mar, 1-3pm
It would be a fundamental error for a European festival brand to launch an African edition and omit African artists from the agenda. Thankfully the opposite is true of the inaugural Beat Hotel line-up. Everyone from the trance-inducing Master Musicians of Joujouka (who Burroughs described as a "4000-year-old rock and roll band”) and gnawa master Maalem Houssam Guinia; to Zanzibari singer-songwriter Mim Suleiman and Nu-Nairobi sound pioneer Coco Em will perform across the four days – with Ballantine’s True Music Africa hosting a stage on day one proper. Another highlight is Casablanca-based Casa Voyager: a record label and collective who throw up an intriguing mix of contemporary electronics and complex Moroccan rhythm patterns.
San Remo (Ballantine's True Music Africa x Worldwide FM), Fri 29 Mar, 1-2pm
Aside from the expansive culinary delights being offered up, another element that sets the Beat Hotel apart from the average music festival is its literary programme, curated by Faber & Faber. Alongside writing workshops, talks on the Beat Generation’s relationship with Morocco and panels on what it means to run a record label in 2019, Irvine Welsh makes a somewhat surprising appearance on day three. Linking up with fellow acclaimed author DBC Pierre for a discussion simply titled The Literary Outlaw, it seems like this one’s being largely kept under wraps at this stage.
Speaker's Corner (Faber Social), Sat 30 Mar, 3-4pm
Nabihah Iqbal is a DJ, producer and NTS radio host, but also so much more than that. With a Cambridge degree focusing on African history, the London-based artist can regularly be found joining the dots and tracing the roots of various musical genres on her regular NTS show. Formerly operating as Throwing Shade, she decided to drop that alias and return to her birth name in 2017, after a more-than-clumsy review showed surprise at a British-Asian artist producing "very white" sounding music. Iqbal discusses The Globalisation of African Music on day three.
Speaker's Corner, Sat 30 Mar, 2-3pm; DJ Set @ San Remo, Sun 31 Mar, 3-5pm
If you’ve taken even a passive interest in electronic music over the past couple of years, there’s a good chance you’ve stumbled upon Serena Passion and her raucous DJ sets. Performing as Peach, these high-energy, feelgood affairs have seen her reputation rise exponentially. Her Boiler Room debut, where she drops Ru Paul in a room full of queer voguers, perfectly illustrates her inherent knack for reading a room.
Interzone, Saturday 30 Mar, 12-2am
Beat Hotel takes place in Marrakech, Morocco, 28-31 Mar