History and Origins of Chaabi Music
Moroccan Chaabi music first appeared during the 1930's, during the French protectorate in Morocco. This early form of Chaabi was profoundly influenced by the social landscape of the period. Most Chaabi artists had limited or no formal education, so they sung in colloquial Moroccan Arabic, or Darija. Because of limited access to radio during the early years of Chaabi, Chaabi artists used local instruments in their music and were only somewhat influenced by the popular music of Egypt and Syria being developed at the same time.
During the 1970's, Chaabi developed into a more formal style of music. Increased communication and transportation allowed Chaabi to infiltrate urban centers in Morocco. Increased contact with Western music also facilitated the creation of popular Moroccan Chaabi bands. Electric instruments were introduced into the bands. Chaabi music from this period was often political; the popular bands Lemchaheb, Nass El Ghiwane and Jil Jilala all published politicized lyrics that caused retribution from the government.
"It’s hard to be at peace, but the love of drink is easy,
In the following decades, Chaabi music gradually declined in popularity. It was superseded by more Western forms of music, especially by the rise of Ra'i music in the 1980's. However, Chaabi is still common at celebrations and festivals of Morocco and has come to represent a more popular form of traditional Moroccan music.
"But is it not only the music that reflects the Western influence as their choice of clothes, loose cotton t-shirts printed with certain phrases and baggy jeans worn low on their hips, is also a sign of Western influence. They emulate American artists especially, and often wear sports caps, gold and silver chains and even earrings." - Latifa al Arousni, speaking about modern Moroccan artists.