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Music Fund association helps to preserve Moroccan heritage

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A project of the Belgian association Music Fund and the Moroccan Ministry of Culture is trying to create new vocations in the field of musical instrument repair.

The Kingdom of Morocco has one of the richest living heritages on the continent. The enlisting of the Gnawa culture on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage List is a brilliant reminder of this. There is, however, one ancestral know-how that is somewhat neglected and even in danger of disappearing if we are not careful, namely that of the craftsmen who repair musical instruments. A project of the Music Fund and the Ministry of Culture is trying to create new vocations.

For almost 20 years now, the Belgian association Music Fund has been supporting music schools and socio-artistic projects in partner countries such as the DRC, Haiti or Palestine. It collects musical instruments, repairs them and gives them a second life by donating them to musical projects. Music Fund, however, does not limit its action to a simple donation. The training of instrument repairers and the setting up of repair workshops are at the heart of its projects and give them a sustainable character. Trained repairers can consider making a career out of it and spreading their know-how in the region. In Morocco, Music Fund entered into a partnership with the Ministry of Culture in 2015 to train new generations of repairers. At first in Tetouan and later throughout the country.

A long-standing collaboration

Every year, thousands of students study music theory, piano, violin, guitar, oud or saxophone in the country's conservatories. Entire generations of new classical or Arab-Andalusian musicians often struggle to find musical instruments to practise on. As part of its partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Music Fund sends Belgian professionals to train young craftsmen to repair wind instruments, plucked string instruments and pianos. At the end of the project, a repair workshop will be set up in one of the country's conservatories. This will quickly be used to repair the myriad damaged musical instruments that are currently stored in regional conservatories.

Promising young people

Among the first beneficiaries of this project, two young Moroccans are starting out on more than promising paths. Here are their stories.

Coming from a modest family in Tetouan, Hamza Boutaghrassa, a piano enthusiast, an inveterate Chopin fan and endowed with an excellent musical ear, took seven local training courses followed by three others in Belgium in the Hanlet workshops in Brussels in 2014, 2017 and 2018. In the Tetouan region, he is the only one with the skills to tune pianos. This rare gem also works for private individuals and has been giving piano lessons in Chefchaouen while continuing his work as a tuner since 2018. Supported by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, the musician was able to join the School of Arts and Crafts of Tetouan as a teacher and also works as a piano repairer in his region.

Spotted during a trip to Morocco, the association selected one of the most talented musicians from its conservatory, Hicham Tahiri. Music Fund offered him the opportunity to follow a lutherie training and saxophone and guitar studies in Marche-en-Famenne, Belgium in 2013. The music lover also returned to our country to follow a training in violin and violin making.  He is now considered as a key person because he represents one of the most successful aspects of the project.

A first gift of musical instruments

On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, the Délégation générale Wallonie-Bruxelles in Rabat is supporting the donation of musical instruments that Music Fund is currently collecting from Belgian citizens and repairing in order to give them a second life. A total of 166 instruments that were lying in the cellars of conservatories and houses will be reconditioned and transported by Wallonie-Bruxelles International to Rabat in order to be distributed to the Music Conservatories of Morocco before the end of June 2020.

The project "Vocational training of musical instrument repairers" is carried out by Music Fund in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and with the support of Wallonie-Bruxelles International in the framework of the 7th action programme of the Permanent Joint Commission Morocco - Wallonia-Brussels 2018-2022.

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