A Profile of Brahim El-Mazned, Festival Coordinator Visa For Music

Brahim El Mazned (born December 31, 1967, in Essaouira, Morocco) is a Moroccan cultural manager and director of World Music Festivals. He has participated in the development of popular musical festivals around the world, with a focus on Moroccan and African culture. He is the founding director of the cultural management organization Anya, which promotes Moroccan and African cultural activities. Promoting Amazigh culture, El Mazned has served as the artistic director of the Timitar Festival of World Music in Agadir,Morocco. Furthermore, he is the founding director of Visa for Music, the first festival and professional market for music in Africa and the Middle East. From Local Cultural Promoter To Global Music and Culture Champion  Brahim is a firm believer in African culture, music, and its intangible heritage. As a producer of musical recordings, El Mazned works for the preservation and presentation of Morocco’s culture. An Amazigh by ethnicity, he has a deep love for his local musical tradition, especially that of the Aïta and the Rrways musicians. For this, he founded the Atlas Azawan association and produced musical albums through his Anya cultural management company. In 2004, he also launched the Agadir Timitar festival, designed to showcase Morrocan culture to the world. The Timitar festival is entering its twentieth year and draws over 300,000 people to the city every year. His work in Morocco has made him a global figure. From there, he has worked for different governments and organizations all over the world. He has had artist residencies in France, Spain, Lebanon, Brazil, and so on. El Mazned was featured as one of the hundred best leaders in sustainable cultural development in the guide for cultural diversity, “Les Aventuriers de la Culture.” He also figured on the list of the hundred people who move and promote Morocco, a yearly list published by the Moroccan weekly magazine TelQuel.  In addition, Brahim El Mazned was named in the book Those who inspire—Morocco as an inspiring personality in the Moroccan cultural sector. From 2019 to 2022, he was a member of the EU/UNESCO Expertise Bank, the body in charge of promoting the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression. He is also currently a member of cultural institutions like AFRIMA, Arts Connect Africa (ACA), and the Global Music Market Network (GloMMNet). Even with his continental and global commitments. He still continues to engage in the promotion of Moroccan culture,  He founded MoMex, The Moroccan Music Export office, in 2016.  A Builder of Bridges and Networks  Brahim frequently uses his events and platforms to not just promote African music and culture; he also uses them to connect African music industry professionals. The Visa for Music festival, which he created in 2014 in Rabat, has its mission as “to participate in the development of the music market in Africa, to discover new talents, and to promote the creation of partnerships.” Under his direction, the festival has developed two distinct paths: the festival and the market for music professionals. In the decade that the Visa for Music Festival has existed, it has featured 8400 professionals from 85 countries, 2052 artists representing 35 countries, 400 exhibitors, and 332 showcases,41 conferences, meetings, and round tables; 29 workshops and trainings; and 3060 speed meetings.  This year, the music professionals’ market will feature the ACA annual congress, where professionals from all over Africa will gather, as well as members of the European Jazz Network (EJN) and Cultural Connections Latin America (CCLA). The major item on the agenda will be how the three networks can build a bridge between Africa, Europe, and South America. His Goals Going Forward  At a time when the United Nations and the African Union put the importance of culture and the development of the music sector at the heart of their concerns, Brahim continues to work from his native Morocco to contribute to the synergy between Africa’s stakeholders—artists, the public, producers, institutions, and its business sector. His belief is that the African music and culture ecosystem, in which an initiative like Visa for Music is already a player, will be able to find a virtuous and sustainable economic model in order to promote music from Africa.

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The Importance of Music Festivals in Africa: The Morocco Model

Music festivals play a crucial role in promoting African music on both the continent and the global stage. But one African country that has successfully harnessed music festivals to develop its tourist sector is Morrocco. More than 10 annual music festivals happen in different regions of the country, bringing 10 million people into the country for a chance to enjoy different cultural displays from different parts of the world. So the question is: how has the music festival model benefited the Moroccan economy, and what lessons can other African countries learn? Showcasing Talent Every year, music festivals in Morrocco provide a platform for both emerging and established African artists to perform in front of large audiences, increasing their visibility. The Visa for Music event, for example, attracts a mix of local and international attendees, broadening the reach of African music. Cultural Exchange Festivals often feature a mix of artists from different cultures and countries, facilitating cross-cultural interactions and collaborations. This year, for example, over fifty (50) musical artists from all over Africa will be at the Visa for Music event in Rabat this November. And that is just one of many festivals in Morocco this year alone. Attendees can learn about the diverse musical styles and cultural traditions of Africa through performances, concerts and workshops. Economic Impact Festivals generate significant revenue for local economies through tourism, including spending on hotels, restaurants, and local businesses. For example, a study by Moroccan consulting firm Valyans revealed that each dirham invested in Essaouira’s Gnaoua Festival generates 17 dirhams in return, injecting 240 million dirhams into the city’s economy during the event. This means more jobs for event managers, security personnel, and hospitality managers. The Mawazine festival, for example, drives the turnover of tourism in Rabat by more than 20%, and hotel occupancy rates oscillate between 60% and 100% during the festivities. Agadir’s Timitar festival similarly creates thousands of jobs, primarily benefiting locals. Industry Development A feature of Moroccan music festivals is that they provide a space for industry professionals, particularly within Africa, to network, form partnerships, and discuss business opportunities. For example, at the Visa for Music festival in Rabat this November, Arts Connect Africa will hold its annual congress. The ACA Congress is a gathering of music industry professionals from across Africa. This congress enables creative minds to interact, share ideas, and launch initiatives that push the boundaries of African music. The ACA Congress will also be an avenue to highlight new trends, technologies, and business models in the African music industry. Global Promotion Music Festivals attract media attention, resulting in extensive coverage that can promote African music to a global audience. Many festivals are live-streamed or recorded, reaching audiences worldwide and promoting African music beyond physical borders. Community Building Festivals bring together people from diverse backgrounds, fostering a sense of community and shared cultural appreciation. Morocco uses its music festivals to celebrate African heritage and music, promoting cultural pride among attendees. However, beyond celebrating African culture, Music communities across the world, such as Cultural Connections Latin America and the European Jazz Network, will be present at the Visa for Music conference in Rabat. These two groups,  among others, will have a chance to meet with Arts Connect Africa. Highlighting issues and causes Morrocco is a multi-ethnic society, and as a result, festivals often highlight social, political, and environmental issues, using music as a tool for advocacy and raising awareness. Brahim El-Mazned, one of Morrocco’s top festival organizers, routinely ensures that his festivals partner with charities and NGOs, using the platform to support various causes. Diverse Programming Festivals often feature a wide range of genres, from traditional African music to contemporary styles  showcasing the diversity of African music. They also provide a space for experimental and innovative music acts that might not fit into mainstream venues. Artists gain valuable performance experience, helping them to hone their craft and build their stage presence. Interacting with audiences and other musicians provides artists with feedback and inspiration for their growth

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4 Trends Shaping The Future Of African Music

The African music industry has constantly evolved in recent years more so as it has come in contact with genres like hip-hop, Jazz, and reggae which are not native to the continent. Some genres of music such as Afrobeats, Hiplife and Amapiano have even emerged from the fusion of these “imported” genres and local sounds, creating sounds that have a local fanbase yet a global appeal.The successes of these “hybrid” sounds will surely play a role in the evolution of African music, and therefore as we move into the future, there are several predictions and trends that are set to shape the way music is created, consumed, and distributed. From advancements in technology to changing consumer preferences, let’s take a closer look at what lies ahead for the future of  African music. 1. Music Streaming will become more influentialOver the past decade, streaming has revolutionized the way we listen to music in Africa. With platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube Music gaining popularity, the era of physical music sales is slowly fading away. And this is a major advantage for many struggling African musicians who do not have the sales and advertising budgets of the big labels in the global north. It means they can gain a share of the market without having to match the big labels in spending. In the future, streaming is expected to become even more dominant, because the increasing African diaspora in Europe and American implies a potential rise in demand for exclusive content and personalized music recommendations based on their native sounds. 2. African musicians will use Artificial intelligence in music creation more Even though internet penetration in Africa is still low, African artists are fast catching up with technological trends in African music. One of the trends in music right now is  Artificial intelligence. For African music, AI is a leveler, because it allows the struggling independent talent to leverage resources that would otherwise not be available to them. AI-powered tools  are now being used to compose music, generate lyrics, and even mimic the style of famous musicians. As technology continues to advance, we can expect AI to play a more significant role in music creation in Africa, enabling artists to experiment with new sounds and push their creative boundaries. 3. Rise of the independent artists and record labels:In Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa where there is little to no structure around the music industry, most music artists are independent. However what was a minus for several decades has now become something of a positive as independent artistes are gaining significant traction thanks to social media platforms and streaming services. With the ability to self-promote and distribute their music to a global audience.  This trend is expected to continue, With the success that independent labels like Olamide’s YBNL, Burna Boy’s Spaceship Records and Don Jazzy’s Supreme Mavin’s Dynasty. African  musicians will focus on the independent label model that allows them have more creative control and a direct connection with their fans. 4. A higher demand for diverse, Inclusive and culturally conscious music:Africa with its 54 countries and over a thousand different ethnicities is perhaps the most diverse of any music industry in the world today. This is why it is becoming the new destination for musicians from other parts of the world. The continent will surely benefit from the  shift towards embracing artists from different backgrounds and genres. Thanks to the internet  consumers around the world now demand more varied and inclusive music. Artists who bring a unique cultural perspective or challenge societal norms are gaining recognition, leading to a more diverse and vibrant music landscape. An example that readily comes to mind in this case is Burnaboy, who has built a global following around highlighting social issues in his native Nigeria.  At ACA we have music professionals  that have studied these trends and who are leading efforts that benefit musicians and music professionals in these areas. Further we are leveraging on our network of music professionals from all over Africa to ensure that there is a regional and continental agenda in place to help African musicians and creative artists can position themselves to derive value for themselves and for their communities around this trend.

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Building Professional Networks in the African Music Industry

The African music industry is getting more and more vibrant, diverse, colourful and youthful, and over the past decade there has been an exponential increase in the visibility of African artists on the global stage, in terms of collaboration with superstars, awards and endorsements. However there is a need to create a community of music industry professionals across the continent to help African creatives in leveraging digital platforms for distribution, fostering cross-border collaborations, and building stronger industry networks to support talent development and market expansion. One of our members, Germany-based Zimbabwean creative Plot Mhako, had an interview with The Standard,  about us and the work we are doing to connect music professionals in Africa. You can read more about the interview here : Newsday

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VISA for Music Hosts ACA Annual Congress

Visa for Music is a performing arts festival that has brought contemporary music acts  from Africa and the Middle East together since 2014. It has the distinction of being the first professional music market and festival in Africa and the Middle East. For four days in November of every year since its inception, musicians, lovers of African and middle eastern culture, and music professionals from all over the world gather in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, to enjoy the best of music and culture that Africa has to offer. However, the festival is not just about the concerts and the showcases. It is also an avenue for  business professionals in the music industry from all over to world to connect through conferences, speed-meetings, workshops, and training sessions to multiply encounters and open the field of possibilities in terms of collaborations. In the ten years  since the festival was first held, it has become one of the landmark music events in Africa, hosting 8400 professionals from 85 countries, 2052 artists from 35 countries, 400 exhibitors, 332 showcases, 41 conferences, meetings, and round tables, 29 workshops and trainings, 3060 speeds-meetings and other initiatives. As this year is the landmark 10th year anniversary of Visa for Music. The event will feature many new events and meetings. One of the major highlights of the event will is that Visa for Music is hosting  the Arts Connect Africa annual congress, which will bring music business professionals from across Africa together to meet, network and collaborate, and also enjoy the sights and sounds of Rabat. On the agenda for the ACA congress this year is creating strong regional professional music and culture networks across the continent. The ACA congress in Rabat this year is particularly newsworthy because the ACA will also meet with the members of the Cultural Connections Latin America, a collective of music business professionals from Latin America to solidify the partnerships the two networks have and to create a roadmap for an engagement between African and Latin American business professionals. In the congress ACA will also be meeting the European Jazz Network, a collective of Jazz music professionals from Europe who have an interest in African music and culture and wish to find a market for Jazz music in Africa. Follow us for more updates as we count down to this momentous festival…

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The Role of African Music Festivals in Supporting Africa’s Growing Music Industry

Over the last few years, African festivals have increased during summer across the Diaspora and over the Continent. However, many music professionals have often called for better integration, harmonisation and promotion across the different African regions to ensure that more opportunities are unlocked across the African music landscape and enterprises to help access financing, promoting tourism and economic development. In this podcast our founder, Katherine McVicker speaks with Nonso Mordi of Africa Business Radio on the role of African music festivals and events in supporting Africa’s growing music industry, increment in revenues and tourism and what policymakers and various African tourist agencies need to do to facilitate this and deliver socio-economic impact and foster employment. You can listen to the interview at Africa Business Radio

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Building a Strong Touring Circuit in the African Music Industry

The African music industry is one of the fastest growing music industries in the world. From Afrobeats to Highlife, to Amapiano, to Soukous to Bongo Flava. Creatives across the continent are creating global sounds inspired by their native music. This has resulted in  increased continental and global interest in and demand for African music. Unfortunately, African talent and African music industry professionals have been unable to take advantage of the unique cultural experiences and the diverse audience base that Africa offers because there are no strong regional touring networks for musical talent  like it obtains elsewhere in the world. A few artistes have been able to break the mould, collaborating with talent from other regions, however to the majority of talent and talent promoters, the wall seems impenetrable. Thus, as part of our network’s commitment to shaping the African music industry and culture, we are starting a new series called the ACA Industry Conversations. In our “ACA Industry Conversations” series, we will be discussing with African music industry professionals from across the continent on “building a strong touring circuit in the African music industry”. Our resource persons, all of whom have decades of experience in managing musical talents and events in Africa, will provide their perspectives on germane issues such as  challenges in the African music touring circuit, economic and creative opportunities within the African music ecosystem, success stories, building regional networks within the industry, and other pertinent issues.

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Arts Connect Africa Partners with Cultural Connections Latin America

Arts Connect Africa is proud to announce our partnership with Cultural Connections Latin America (CCLA) a collaborative network that connects professionals in the music industry in the Latin American region. Currently present in 11 countries, CCLA members include festivals, venues, as well as agents and producers. Our partnership aims to  strengthen professional ties between African and Latino American music industry professionals, resulting in greater visibility of contemporary musical creation. The partnership will also stimulate artistic mobility within our respective regions, multiplying business opportunities and fostering professional development of the sector, through the exchange of ideas and the creation of specific collaboration projects between the two regions. The partnership with CCLA is one of the ACA’s means of achieving its aim of creating a  mechanism that will ensure that 1. Cultural exchanges between Africa and Latin America happen more frequently, 2. That such a culture exchange is a true cultural exchange that both parties benefit as equally as possible. And 3. Both the ACA and the CCLA can leverage their partnership to connect with other networks from around the world.  That music lovers from around the world can enjoy the taste of African music, and African music can bring some value to the African continent itself. Building that structure is what we are trying to achieve at Arts Connect Africa.

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