Ahmed El Bidaoui – Moroccan Music Pioneer

Ahmed El Bidaoui was a talented musician and singer who has been widely credited with being one of the pioneers of modern Moroccan music. His music is often associated with the Independence of Morocco in 1956, because it was at this time of strong nationalistic sentiments that he began to be recognized for his musical talent, with his lyrics striking a responsive chord in the hearts of many Moroccans.

Not much is known about Ahmed El Bidaoui’s early life, except that even as a young child he spent his time in a music-oriented environment where creativity was encouraged. At some stage in his education he attended classes to learn the principles of the modalism and rhythmic Arabic from renowned masters.

Many of Ahmed El Bidaoui’s compositions have been used by other singers and musicians, and he was also actively involved in establishing the Royal Orchestra of Modern Music, which he later went on to direct. His music embraced authentic Moroccan sounds along with elements of experimental music with Egyptian influences. His specialty instrument was the oud – a pear-shaped stringed instrument that is characteristic of Middle Eastern music. Although played much like a guitar, the oud does not have frets and has five pairs of strings with a single string at the bottom. Although there may be some dissension on this matter it is generally agreed that the oud is a more difficult instrument to master than the guitar. Certainly, by all accounts, Ahmed el Bidaoui was a talented oudist.

These days, Moroccan music festivals often highlight the music of Ahmed el Bidaoui and acknowledge the changes that he brought about in Moroccan modern music, which has opened up the way for many musicians to pursue their personal music styles. One such festival is the Festival of Volubilis, which takes place each July in Meknes. This celebration of drama and music attracts artists and audiences from around the world, and is a superb platform to present the unique sounds of Morocco.

There are several places in Morocco, including one in Casablanca, that are named in honor of Ahmed El Bidaoui. This talented musician died in the Moroccan town of Sale in 1991 – but his musical legacy lives on.