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The BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music The BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music

Artist: Momo

Category: Boundary Crossing

Momo are a three piece band consisting of Lahcen Lahbib, Farid Nainia and Tahar El Edrissi, all Moroccans who arrived in London separately in the late 1980s. Momo have built a reputation as one of London's most exciting live acts and their first album The Birth Of Dar (Apartment 22) captures their potent mix of North African and electronic beats.

'None of us were professional musicians in Morocco,' says Lahcen, 'we all just grew up playing instruments and loving music. With Momo we have concentrated on our Gnawa roots. Gnawa is a music that travelled to North Africa from West African through slavery and now is such a big part of Moroccan culture. You hear it in many forms and it has a deep spiritual base. What makes Gnawa assessable to people here is it is very rhythmic, it encourages people to dance. Moroccan music is really different from Egyptian in the sense that it is really funky.

Momo play a variety of traditional Moroccan instruments while also employing a western drum kit and samples. This hybrid is what Momo call Dar music - a contemporary North African groove based sound.

'We listen to stuff on the radio, in clubs, and maybe pick up a bit of it,' says Lahcen. 'We can't deny we're influenced by what we hear in this country and house and garage have certainly come into our rhythms. And we've played big raves, squat parties, played for five hours at one and the DJs packed up and went home.'

Morocco has long proved attractive to Western musicians looking for a cultural injection. Everyone from The Rolling Stones through Bill Laswell to Talvin Singh has gone there yet Momo claim no one has got it right yet.

'I don't think those artists really understand Moroccan music. They just use it for decoration. Let's hope we can show people how to do it properly. What Bob Marley did for Jamaican music we want to do for Moroccan.'

Biography by Garth Cartwright, November 2001
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