Independence Day of Morocco - and their only appearance in Eurovision
Today November 18 is the "Independence Day of Morocco" also known as “Eid Al Istiqlal” and in celebration we look back at the one time Morocco entered the Eurovision Song Contest.
'Independence Day of Morocco' marks the day in 1955 when Sultan Mohammed V announced the end of the Spanish and French colonial rule, a speech he made only two days after returning from exile. They managed to free themselves from French colonial rule in March 1956 and the a month later from Spanish rule. Even though their independence actually occurred in March and April they celebrate their Independence Day in November at the request of the then King Hassan II decades later.
Morocco first appeared in Eurovision in 1980. After Israel’s back to back win in 1978 and 1979, Israel opted out from hosting again in 1980 due to funding issues. The honour of hosting was bestowed upon The Netherlands with The Hague chosen as the host city. The date set for the 1980 Contest fell on Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s military Day of Remembrance. This led to Israel's withdrawal from Contest that year.
After Israel's withdrawal Morocco decided to make their debut in Eurovision, through their station broadcaster SNRT, becoming the first African and Arabic country to enter the Contest. Interestingly a few years earlier in 1977 Tunisia were to compete in the Contest, where they were even given a running order. They ended up withdrawing for undisclosed reasons, missing out on being the first African and Arabic country to compete.
Morocco was represented by Samira Bensaïd, chosen internally, with the song “Bitaqat Hub” which translates to “Love Card”. It is the first and only song entry in Eurovision to be performed entirely in Arabic. The song itself was very Eurovision at that time, a disco like song but with a twist of an Arabic sound. The message of the song calls out for peace among all nations of the world. “Bitaqat Hub” became a hit song in Egypt.
Samira Bensaïd - Bitaqat Hub (18th place - 1980)
It was a year when Johnny Logan won his first Eurovision victory for Ireland with "What's Another Year". Unfortunately for Morocco, Bensaïd’s performance only received 7 points from Italy and came second to last ahead of Finland. It is believed that her low placing in the Contest led to a royal statement from King Hassan II, that Morocco was never return to the Eurovision Song Contest. This didn’t stop Bensaïd, now known as Samira Said, who went on to become a huge superstar in the Arab music world.
More recently a different broadcaster in Morocco, 2M TV, have expressed interested in joining the EBU. This could be a new avenue for Morocco’s return to the Contest.
Let’s hope we see their return!