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Joudour Sahara Music School

Joudour Sahara is a music school for children and youth, located in the oasis of M’hamid El Ghizlane in southern Morocco. Its main objectives are to transmit and preserve traditional music heritage, offer training in music related disciplines (recording, video editing etc..) to local youth, and to spread environmental awareness. A key stop along the salt and gold caravan routes, M’hamid is known as the Gateway to the Sahara, and has a rich cultural heritage, equally influenced by Arabic, Berber and Sub-saharan traditions. It is currently being threatened by migration of the population to urban centers, the disappearance of nomadic lifestyle, encroaching sand dunes, and lack of access to water. Indeed, in the 70s, a hydroelectric dam was built near Ouarzazate, which cut much of the supply to M’hamid, the last oasis south of the Drâa Valley.

The 2,000 local youth, a subset of overall population of approximately 7,500 inhabitants, crave a creative outlet but lack access to music instruments, education, and encouragement.

Through its efforts to drive the preservation and revitalization of traditional Saharan cultural heritage, the Joudour Sahara Music School will engage and support local youth, including the equal participation of girls, helping community members achieve economic and social empowerment. Through its training programs ranging from music theory to sound and video editing, and its activities such as concerts and workshops, the school will provide incentive for local youth to stay in M’hamid El Ghizlane and actively participate in the shaping of their futures. In concert with these efforts, the school will also lead ecological conservation and anti-desertification efforts, both literally and figuratively planting seeds in the community to reverse current environmental and socio-economic trends that are eroding the rammed earth villages of M’hamid El Ghizlane and the oasian landscapes M’hamid, chief of which are climate change and desertification. Indeed, the school will showcase reimagined traditional construction techniques such as reinforced earth bricks, innovative water collection and recycling systems, permaculture, and new anti desertification system composed of tamarisks trees, palm tree leaves matrices, earth walls and swells.

The school design follows the urban design rules of traditional local villages, called ksour: the school mass is divided into finite interconnected buildings, each with its own planted courtyard. The Evaporative cooling in the courtyards coupled with the thick rammed earth walls allows the buildings to remain at a confortable temperature all year round. By creating a space that both offers youth structured self-expression and skills development activities and acts as a local model for preserving the beautiful  built and ecological landscapes of the oasis, this project aims to drive positive social change by providing opportunity to currently unengaged community members. Most importantly, this project will lay the groundwork for a future of music education, cultural preservation, and ecological conservation in M’hamid.

Team: Aziza Chaouni, Veronica Gallego Sotelo, Tanya Tsui, Ashita Parekh, Sarah Gaines, Kobi Logendrarajah, and Yi Zhang (ACP) | Block Research Group (Structural and Acoustic Engineers) | Wanda Hebly (Landscape consultant) | Stacie Fraiser (Playing for Change – International Music NGO) | Halim Sbai and Ibrahim Sbai (Taragalte – Local Music NGO)