Africa

Female intuition: Spotting Moroccan music talent

Janatte Haddadi
Image caption Janatte Haddadi is now 24 - she first began managing artists when she was still at school

Janatte Haddadi is one of very few women to work in the music business in Morocco. She manages one of Morocco's biggest dance acts, DJ Van, as well as other musicians. So how hard was it for her to succeed in the entertainment industry?

As a manager, Haddadi works behind the scenes - but she says this gives her double the satisfaction. "You live it on both sides, with the crowd and with the artists," she says.

"It's the nicest feeling you can ever have to be backstage. Imagine seeing 10,000 people singing a song that you worked on. It's like having a baby actually - you make it, you see it growing up."

Haddadi got into the business five years ago when she saw her artist friends struggling to make a living from their music. She realised there was a lack of managers and agents and seized the opportunity.

"I believe that the biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams - and my dream was to inspire and to help others," she says.

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Media captionDJ Edu explores the clash of new and old on Morocco's music scene

The music industry is not yet taken seriously as a career in Morocco, says Haddadi, who comes from a family of engineers and doctors.

"When I told them I wanted to work in the music industry, as a woman, I'm going be working late at night, go on tour, they were like: 'Are you sure?'"

Sexual harassment

Despite their reservations, her family supported her and she went out and got her first client, DJ Van. She didn't tell him that she was just 18 and still at school - she pretended to be 21.

The bluff worked, and Van asked her to produce his album. It was her first project.

"Not a single, not a tour, not a booking - an album," says Haddadi proudly. "Now I don't prove myself any more. It's not ego, but I know I'm the best."

This confidence belies the struggles she has faced.

"As a woman I get a lot of sexual harassment - not from my artists, but from other artists in the business, from partners in the business, even from fans," she says.

The biggest challenge has been to be taken seriously in this "exclusive men's club". Most male musicians cannot accept that a woman might tell them what to do - their pride will not allow it, says Haddadi.

When she approached a big Moroccan artist - she doesn't mention his name - he told her he could never employ her as a manager.

"I cannot give my career, my life to a woman. I cannot do that," he said.

Image caption DJ Van was the first to employ Janatte Haddadi as a manager - they have worked together from the start

The turning point came when she realised she had to think differently.

"If you want people to stop judging you as a woman in this business, stop judging yourself as a woman. Judge yourself as a manager, not as a female manager. Judge yourself on how you can push your artists to the limits."

'Best job in the world'

Now that she has an established group of artists who trust her, the next hurdle is to build up the Moroccan music industry as a whole.

"The biggest problem we have is distribution," says Haddadi.

"You can make music, but where are you going to sell that product? I would love my artists to have their rights, their royalties" - and not just so that she can get her percentage.

"To have a productive artist he needs to wake up every morning not worrying about how he's going to pay his rent, he just needs to wake up and think about his art."

She has chosen not to accept an offer of work in the US, but to stay in Morocco.

"I hope one day I can say I made the right choice," she says. "I have the chance to earn my living by living my dreams.

"I think I have the best job in the world - if I can take just one song from one of my artists, and pour it in the ears of just one person, and they feel the positivity from the song, then I will leave my mark on this world."

Haddidi says the situation for women of her generation has progressed.

"Over the past 10 years Moroccan women have become more independent, they earn money, they party. I go nightclubbing with my friends, in a female group - it's not a problem."

Moroccan women can travel alone, they can vote, run for election, can do business, be independent, says Haddidi - but these rules don't apply to all levels of society.

Poorer women still live in a traditional society where "she gets a lot of sexual harassment on the street because she is wearing jeans", she says.

And another threat looms.

"Now we are dealing with radical Islam - women are the devil. But I will say we are really lucky if you compare with other countries."

Photos by Manuel Toledo

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