Boultek, a place of hope | Hicham Houdaïfa
Boultek, a place of hope
Hicham Houdaïfa   
Casablanca will soon welcome its first centre for contemporary music. The name of the centre will be Boultek.
Boultek, a place of hope | Hicham Houdaïfa
Finally a good solution for Mohammed Merhari, known as Momo, and Hicham Bahou, founders of the L’Eac-Boulvart association, who organise the Boulvard festival since 1998 to promote urban music. « We have been in search for a venue for years, since the time we had to abandon the FOL(*). We could not afford to buy a venue. In fact we worked from our own homes. » Momo explains. For eleven years the Boulvard, the training workshops, the Tremplin des jeunes artistes and the music documentary festival were organised from the homes of both founders. However this Do-it-yourself business has its limits. “The aim of L’Eac-L’Boulvart is to monitor and help music bands throughout their music career, to give them the opportunity to rehearse and evolve from the encounter with other musicians, to have new experiences, to help them launch their new album and to give them the necessary tools to grow professionally.”, explains Hicham Bahou. “Every year the association receives plenty of requests for assistance. However we are not able to offer our help or welcome them without an identified, physical and equipped place”. In fact in Casablanca there isn’t a professional recording studio of high standards.
Boultek, a place of hope | Hicham Houdaïfa
Momo
Some years ago Momo and Hicham met Omar Balafrej, director of Casablanca Technopark, a big industrial complex for Information Technology. “He offered us premises covering an area of 850 m2” relates Momo. “The first aim was that of encorporating culture in this building and to apply information techhology to culture”. From a simple venue allocated to an association, Technopark’s basement is soon becoming a real venue for music.

The project is an ambitious one. « We wanted to create a platform for information, orientation, documentation, supervision and exchange between artists in the urban scene. The aim is to create an economy for alternative culture and to control all the chain: from the creation to the production and the distribution”, explains Momo. This is godsend to a country where artists are self made and where a music market is practically non-existent. “We work on discovering new talents, helping artists become professional, promoting them and opening their horizons”, insists Chedwane Bansalmia, active member of L’Eac-L’Boulvart. According to Momo, « even if we manage to help ten young artists, that is already something.” Boultek will primarily support urban music, but not exclusively. Boultek encourages new artists in the scene to relate to their Moroccan musical heritage : the Gnaoua rhythms without doubt, but also Aïta and the great heritage of Amazigh. Artists will learn through “exchanges, rehearsing sessions and encounters between contemporary and traditional musicians” as well as workshops by Moroccon percussionists and musicians playing string instruments such as the rebab, the outar and the hejhouj.

Today, Boultek has its commercial premises with a reception, offices and a meeting room. The premises consist of three rehearsing studios, a multiuse function room for small concerts and urban exhibitions as well as two training halls, without mentioning the most important room: a recording studio, which still doesn’t have the necessary equipment. However works are taking place and soon all will be completed in the upcoming months, ensures the EAC. “There is a time leg between the application and the financing of the projects. Sometimes we manage to find what we need in Morocco but other times we have to import the material needed. We must say that 90% of the works are successfully completed.” says Momo. Boultek was created thanks to a royal donation of two million dirhams, which helped Momo and his associates to accelerate the pace of works in 2009. “We also managed to collect about 1.5 million dirhams in cash, financed entirely by Morocco. However the aim is to make this important project work exclusively through Moroccon funds.” he insists. Momo and his associates are still hoping for more funds to finance the equipment needed for the recording studio (about a million dirhams) as well as the running costs for all activities. “In fact we have put forward a request for funds within the framework of the National Initiative for Human Development.”, says Chedwane Benslamia. The INDH is an initiative launched by Mohammed VI in 2006 to enable local authorities and associations have access to necessary funds to finance projects of an econonic, social or cultural nature, always keeping in mind the aspect of human development.

An Internet Radio Station for an Alternative Scene
Boultek will also be a centre for innovative ways of working. “We have an alternative way of viewing culture. We aspire to work with other associations, thus adding value to the associative element of the market. We are already doing so with all the events held such as the Boulvard and the Tremplin”, explains Chedwane Bensalmia.

Boultek, a place of hope | Hicham HoudaïfaEvent promotion will be first published in the Kounache , the Boulvard's magazine, of which the rate of distribution will become quarterly: it will focus its work again on research in traditional and urban music, as well as history. Boultek will inevitably launch its internet radio station, the very first in Morocco. The opening up of radio airwaves in Morocco has till today only incentivized the birth of private radio stations and not that of associative radio stations. Boultek’s internet radio station will work just like any other radio station, with seven hours of direct web streaming a day to start off with. “The radio station will broadcast debate programs, chronicles and music undoubtedly. This associative radio station will be the mouthpiece of an alternative culture we believe in, since it doesn’t have a right to exist in official radio stations.” insists Momo. “What is crystal clear is what we will not be doing in the organisation of the radio. This internet radio station will have a clear, alternative and associative agenda. A radio station to promote culture », stops short Chedwane Bensalmia.
Whilst waiting for the above, Boultek is already working well. The stars of the new Moroccon scene do not hesitate to rehearse in one of the equipped rehearsing studios, the popular Ground zero . Taking on Barry’s steps, who is preparing his next album, is the group called Haoussa who have just given birth to their new album in this studio. The great Amazigh Kateb has also used the premises for a whole week after Tremplin des jeunes musiciens last March…. Moreover there are plenty of concerts organized in 36, Boultek’s multiuse room: Amazigh Kateb, D.J. Karim Raïhani and Inouraz , are groups which mix jazz and berber music. The centre also shows films, the latest Boughafer 33 , speaks of the heroic resistance of the Aït Atta tribes against the French colonizers, in the presence of the director himself. The agenda for the upcoming months is confirmed and looks rich in content: a series of five concerts, starting at the end of October, in Tanger, Meknès, Agadir, Beni Mellal and Casablanca; as well as the participation of big names on the new scene (Muslim, Lazywall, Amarg Fusion, H-Kayne, Barry, Haoussa and many others…). A month later will follow the great event of 3, 2, 1 Rock Salé , a musical event held at Salé in partnership with the Goethe and Cervantès Institutes : three weekends of music with the participation of groups from Morocco, Spain and Germany. The agenda for 2011, with plenty of music again, starring Boulvard, Tremplin , the Music Documentary Festival and the Transculturelles of Casablanca… In other words, the best is yet to come ……

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(*) - Boultek, a venue dedicated for to alternative culture. The association EAC- L’Boulvart with its eleven years of experience is strengthening its work and embarking on new challenges.

Hicham Houdaïfa
Translated into English by Emma Navarro
(18/10/2010)