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  • Writer's pictureSteven Garner

Morocco at Eurovision and 2023 artists with Moroccan heritage

[Clockwise from top left: Samira Bensaïd, Loreen, La Zarra and Noa Kirel]

Today, November 18, is 'ʿid lʾistiqlal' or Independence Day in the Kingdom of Morocco. Independence Day commemorates the day in 1955 when then Sultan Mohammed V announced the end of French and Spanish colonial rule, although true independence took effect early the following year.

To mark the day, let's look back at the country's sole Eurovision entry in 1980, and the connections between the nation and some of the 2023 artists who performed in Liverpool.

Playing the 'Love Card'

Following back-to-back wins by Israel in the two previous years and their decision not to host the Contest in 1980 (for financial reasons) and not to participate (due to the clash with its official remembrance day), the Moroccan state broadcaster, SNRT, opted to make its Eurovision debut in the Netherlands host city.

Morocco was represented by the internally-selected Samira Bensaïd and her song 'Bitakat hob', which translates to 'Love Card'. It was the first and remains the only Eurovision song to be performed entirely in Arabic. Unfortunately, for fans of the disco-infused entry, Bensaïd received just seven points from the juries and came second-last in The Hague.

Although the country has chosen not to participate since, artists with Moroccan heritage have continued to appear on the Eurovision stage, with three doing so this year in Liverpool. Let's check them out.

La France... évidemment

Like some of France's other recent Eurovision artists, Amir (Stockholm, 2016) and Bilal Hassani (2019), 2023 entrant La Zarra can also claim Moroccan heritage. Fatima-Zahra Hafdi is now based in France, but was born in Canada to Moroccan parents.

In an interview with Radio Canada, La Zarra explained that she grew up listening to her mother play Arabic music at home and that she will never "deny her roots" because her parents "brought (her) up with the values of their country". She also told French broadcaster BFM TV that she is proud of her "dual culture" and thanked "all the French-speaking world" (explicitly including North Africa) following her 16th place at this year's Contest.

The two-time winner

Lorine Zineb Nora Talhaoui, better known to Eurovision fans simply as Loreen, the only woman to have won the Contest twice, was also born to Moroccan immigrants, in her case in suburb of Stockholm.

Loreen proudly claims Amazigh heritage, which is shared by a diverse grouping of ethnic groups indigenous to North Africa, and strong hints at that culture can be found in her second Eurovision-winning entry 'Tattoo'. Loreen's hands and feet are adorned with "Fessi" henna designs, which have Moroccan roots, and the Amazigh "yaz" symbol representing freedom is incorporated into that artwork which also appeared in the upper section of the platform upon which she performs.

The Bronze medallist

The third artist with Moroccan heritage is third-placed Noa Kirel, whose Israeli-born mother is of Mizrahi Jewish descent and can trace her roots back to the North African country.

In an interview with The Jewish Chronicle in the lead-up to Liverpool 2023, Noa explained that her entry 'Unicorn' was about the freedom to be who you are, adding that she is "half Moroccan and half Austrian", recognising the mixed and disparate backgrounds of her parents.

So, will we ever see Morocco return to the Eurovision Song Contest? Well, it appears unlikely at present, but that doesn't mean that there won't be links to the country next year and beyond. Far from it!

Aussievision wishes a happy Independence Day to our Moroccan readers and supporters.

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