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The Sheikhs Shikhats & B’net Chaabi

The Sheikhs Shikhats & B’net Chaabi


Alluring melodies, enchanting vocals, breath-taking brass instruments and an explosive chaabi groove, The Sheikhs Shikhats & B’net Chaabi propose a multi-vocal adaptation of popular songs from Morocco accompanied by daring jazz arrangements and continuous rhythms. For the final Main Stage Performance of ICAF 2023, we present the final instalment of our Festival Resident, MetX’s programme: The Sheikhs Shikhats & B’net Chaabi.

This project, led by Laïla Amezian with Laurent Blondiau as an accomplice, pays tribute to the Ghanayats and Shikhats, female musicians who fought for freedom of expression through their art. It also highlights a cultural heritage that these singers have popularised throughout Morocco since the end of the 19th century, and which is perpetuated in Belgium.

Fascinating in all its strength and audacity, this project brings to the forefront a vocal and musical tradition little known to the general public: that of the Ghanayats and Shikhats. Emblematic figures of traditional Moroccan culture, these artists were as much adored as despised and stigmatised. Their songs based on the art of Aïta (literally ‘call’ in Arabic) were practised as a means of transmitting a collective and sometimes revolutionary message. The Chaabi (lit. ‘popular’) became an urban style of popular and traditional songs specific to Morocco, practised during traditional festivals and dedicated to dance.

To reinterpret extracts from these chaabi and traditional repertoires, Laïla surrounds herself with vocalists and top musicians from very different horizons, including some members of the Mâäk collective. In order to be as close as possible to the power and energy of these repertoires, the project also invites the female singer-percussionists from B’net Chaabi.

To coincide with this performance as part of ICAF 2023, as well as a tour covering Flanders and Brussels, the group will release its first album on the Zephyrus label. Join for this spectacular closing performance that will affect, enchant, and embody the sound of change.