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Jubantouja, a Moroccan rock band giving Tamazight a voice

Jubantouja is an Azilal-based rock band that makes music in Tamazight, a Moroccan language. The band has risen to fame during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Ayoub, the lead singer and co-founder of Jubantouja. / DR
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When Ayoub, the founder and lead singer of Moroccan rock band Jubantouja, was young he dreamed of making music. Music that would mirror his identity and reflect how he felt as a native of the Atlas Mountains. Despite the remoteness of his village and the limited access to electricity, infrastructure and technology, his love for music prevailed.

This love was born in the isolated valley of Ait Bouali (near Azilal), which was home to his father’s music band. «Music started with my father, who was one of the co-founders of a music band in the Ait Bouali valley», Ayoub told Yabiladi.

«They played music that was different from traditional folklore the village was used to, such as Ahwach, Ahidous and Aderssi. It was an up-to-date band inspired by other famous bands in the Souss region», he recalled.

Writing songs in Tamazight

Ayoub’s story with music took a different turn when his family decided to move to Azilal. Due to the lack of educational facilities, Ayoub left the valley to have, for the first time in his life, access to electricity, cultural facilities and most importantly the internet.

«In Azilal, I bought my first computer and guitar», the singer recalled. Thanks to the internet, he discovered other types of music, learned about the musical scene in Morocco and gained more trust in his passion.

While learning how to play the guitar, Ayoub started song-writing in Tamazight, his mother tongue. As a highschooler, Ayoub and his brother decided to make a step forward in their music journey. «At high school, I met a friend and decided to create a band and sing in a school event», he explained.

During the event, the band sung three of its original songs and did not expect to get much attention. Days later, Ayoub and other band members were invited to attend a university festival in Beni Mellal and play their music.

«It was the first time that we would travel together to sing and the first time we were thinking of making music seriously», Ayoub reminisced.

Juba from the hill, Jubantouja

Jubantouja or «Juba from the hill» was born, with songs written by Ayoub, composed and played by other members of the band. Since then, the young artist and his friends took baby steps to get the recognition they deserved.

In 2015, they were invited by an Agadir-based music producer to make a cover. Once there, they decided to sing one of their original songs. Once recorded and released, the song became a major hit in Agadir as it was in Tamazight, a language widely spoken in the city.

It is thence that Jubantouja decided to work on their first album. With few means and no experience in the industry, they launched a funding campaign to record the seven songs of their first album. «Friends and people who heard of our music contributed to our campaign and thanks to their donations we could record the songs», the young rocker recalled.

But that was not the only obstacle along the way for the young artists. To launch the album, Ayoub and his friends decided to organize an event in the city to introduce their band. «We printed flyers and roamed the city to distribute them, no one knew us and only 20 people showed up and they were mostly just passersby», he joked.

Jubantouja was not discouraged by this. After releasing the album, they filmed music videos for some of the songs with the help of young photographers from the region. «We collaborated with filmmakers in the region, young people and friends who did it for free. They understood our vision and we felt connected because we were doing something that we both liked», he proudly said.

Music and lockdown

After a long journey, Jubantouja finally made it to the spotlight in 2020. During the Covid-19 lockdown, young Moroccans discovered the band and started sharing their music. «People were looking for entertainment during the confinement and they found it in our music», Ayoub said.

With fame, positive feedback came, especially due to the band's chosen language for the lyrics.

«Our objective from the right beginning was to break up with the stereotypes Amazigh music was associated with. When looking at urban festivals, we don’t hear Tamazight. It is too bad that Moroccan bands sing in English, in French and Arabic but not in Tamazight».

Ayoub, Jubantouja

Jubantouja realized a part of that objective in 2020 as it performed at the digital edition of the Visa for Music festival.

«We had people saying that they were feeling proud of their culture and their language and others saying that they wanted to learn Tamazight to understand the lyrics. There is something emotional in listening to music you like in the language you understand and relate to», Ayoub proudly declared.

Through indie and alternative rock and other music genres, Jubantouja is making original music that both revives the identity and language of Moroccans all over the country.

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