From Berber to Jazz – our 5-night stay in Marrakech is more than just ‘a holiday’. It’s the opportunity to be totally immersed in the epicentre of North African Singing. Unplug, de-Spotify with the incredible Malika Zarra.
NOV 2021 (TBC) Marrakech, Morocco
All meals (and wine with dinner), transfers and tuition
Unplug and de-Spotify
Stepping into Marrakech Airport is like entering the inside of a heavenly kaleidoscope. No one here thinks twice about checking their iPhone for messages or completing that oh-so-important level twenty-seven on Candy Crush. How could they? Above us, shards of refracted light stream through diamond-shaped structures, zapping us with divine magic. This is a place devoid of mortal restraint such as walls and ceilings. It’s a cathedral of dreams, a waiting room before you enter the heavenly arena. We’ve been sucked into the biggest, most enchanting Moorish lampshade where only peace and calm exist. It is beautiful and, as I don’t have a signal on my mobile, it’s worth looking at!
We’re staying in the Medina, in the old city of Marrakech just a short taxi ride from our celestial waiting room. Dodging donkeys, market stalls, small children and plumes of 2-stroke we arrived within 30 minutes at a drop-off-point just outside the Medina’s fortified walls and plumb in the centre of the most fabulous Souk.
I look across at Temi (the better half of Singing Holidays) – she’s all smiles and wide eyes as she drinks in the chaos of the market. She questions Muhammad – our convivial driver – about the wonderful madness surrounding us. There’s no doubt that the further one gets from one’s own culture the more British one becomes, and at this very moment, I’m hard-pressed to distinguish Temi from the Duchess of Cambridge. ‘When could one perchance visit these indigenous street vendors, Muhammad?’ she asked. Those weren’t her exact words but that’s what registered in my internal Google Translate.
I squashed myself into the angle between the seat and car door, so I could fully appreciate the royal scene before me. The big grin on my face was soon wiped off as Temi spat out some very convincing Arabic. Muhammad was delighted! ‘Impressive’ I thought… ‘and annoying’.
Her British demeanour dissolved instantly into the Souk. I was alone. The last mad dog with a mouth full of diphthongs. ‘Give me that phrasebook’ I demanded, as we scuttled off through ancient city walls to our rather lovely accommodation at Kbour & Chou.
Our escorts, Loebas and Bobby looked similar – both unusually blond, hairy and with big ears. They cut a strange figure in this part of Morocco. They knew the streets well, however, and darted confidently this way and that as they cleared a route in front of us. Soon they led us down an ever-narrowing street until we came to a dark tunnel. ‘Mildly terrifying’ I whispered to Temi. Four eyes peered out from the darkness followed by two excited wagging tails. ‘Oh good, the muscle’s still with us’ I thought. Loebas and Bobby, Kbour’s two resident dogs, looked up at us with quizzical tilted heads as they ushered us into the darkness. To be fair, the darkness lasted all of two seconds and we emerged pretty much instantaneously outside our Riad. ‘Welcome to Kbour and Chou’ said Khalid, the third member of our escort. There was a pregnant pause while we both drank in the enormous smile of pride and warmth radiating from Khalid’s face. ‘Choukran’ spat Temi. I gave her a hard stare.
We entered into a little oasis. An inner courtyard filled with lovely smells, banana plants, Moorish decor and the sound of water. It was immediately seductive without any need of effort or pretence. Our bags were taken to our room as the extraordinarily charming and softly-spoken Egon sat us down with a lovely glass of hot mint tea and a selection of patisserie. ‘We don’t have any locks on the bedroom doors’, Egon told us. ‘No need’ he said.
We very quickly understood the reason behind Egon’s seemingly lax attitude to security. This is a small home – a sanctuary. There is nothing ‘hotel-like’ about Kbour. You get an immediate sense of family and belonging here. Everyone has a deep-rooted love for the house and for their guests. Whether it’s breakfast with Aziz and Khalid on the roof terrace, Mouna making up our room or Rachida in the kitchen, you quietly get to know everyone, and their kindness zaps you like those shards of light in our Moorish lampshade.
No locks on the doors? Obviously not.
Whether it’s the warmth of the open fireplaces in each room or the breakfast on the sun-drenched rooftop, you immediately feel completely relaxed here. Each room has its own unique character, and the detailed touches in each don’t go unnoticed. This is a refuge and the perfect counterpoint to the wonderfully chaotic Medina on our doorstep.
Our five nights of North African singing in Marrakech promises to be a particularly unique Singing Holidays treat. Not only will we be staying in the exquisite Kbour and Chou but we’ll also be singing for three hours each morning with the exceptionally talented Malika Zarra.
Few musicians have the ability and life experience to absorb and excel in diverse musical styles quite like Malika. Having been born in the high Atlas into a Berber family, Malika grew up predominately in France before settling in New York. She has performed in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall (opening for Bobby McFerrin) and the London and Montreal Jazz Festivals. Her discography is extensive and includes the fascinating album ‘Berber Taxi‘ which in many ways exemplifies Malika’s rich palette of musical influence.
From Berber and Gnawa music to Jazz and French Melodie – our five-night stay in Marrakech is more than just ‘a holiday’. It’s the opportunity to be totally immersed in the very epicentre of Moroccan music – a chance to unplug, de-Spotify and discover a new and fascinating musical culture through the wonder of singing.
Kbour & Chou
13 Derb Najem
Marrakesh 40000, Morocco
EVERYTHING was done well. Nothing was too much trouble for Alex and Temi. The whole experience was really enjoyable and left me feeling so happy.I can’t wait to go on my next singing holiday!
'A memorable holiday!'
Singing by the beautiful Weißensee with the warm and hugely talented Unthanks delivered all that I’ve come to expect from holidays with Alex and Temi: a lovely setting, infectious good humour and the pleasure of music-making led by exceptional and delightful musicians. Throw into the mix an evening performance with local singers leading to a laughter-filled exchange of songs stretching into the wee hours and I’m left with memories of one of the most joyful experiences of my musical life.
Small is beautiful
We think it’s the little things in life that matter the most. That’s why we only take small groups on our singing holidays. We want you to eat in tiny restaurants where mamma still cooks the food and stay in cosy, exquisite nests that feel like home.
We want you to get the maximum from every opportunity – from the incredibly talented professionals who teach you right through to the inspirational performance spaces that might otherwise be inaccessible.
A small group allows us to focus on the little details that can make all the difference and on you as an individual rather than just a face in the crowd. Most importantly though, a small group engenders a warmth and intimate connection between ‘friends’ who just LOVE to sing.