Crowds flock to Morocco Mawazine music festival tinged with controversy

Singer Pharrell Williams performs during the 14th Mawazine World Rhythms International Music Festival in Rabat on Saturday (May 30). -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Singer Pharrell Williams performs during the 14th Mawazine World Rhythms International Music Festival in Rabat on Saturday (May 30). -- PHOTO: REUTERS

RABAT (AFP) - Morocco's Mawazine festival opened this weekend to record crowds and no little controversy, with 300,000 fans flocking to see star attractions such as Jennifer Lopez and Pharrell Williams, organisers said.

Last year's instalment - the festival's 13th - drew total crowds of 2.6 million in Rabat and organisers said the 2015 festival saw 160,000 music fans alone turned out to watch Lopez on opening night.

But local media criticised the pop star for her "suggestive poses" and for being "scantily" dressed, specially that the show was also broadcast on public television, albeit with a slight delay.

Government spokesman Mustapha Khalfi, a member of the Islamist Justice and Development party, strongly denounced the broadcast on state television.

"What was broadcast is unacceptable and goes against broadcasting law," Khalfi wrote on Twitter.

The performance of Williams, now world famous for his 2014 smash hit Happy, received more universal approval.

"I loved it, there were lots of young people and Pharrell Williams' performance was full of joy. I want to go back!" one fan said.

The festival runs until June 6 and will also see live performances by international acts such as Sean Paul, Avicii, Placebo, Akon, Sting, Usher and Maroon 5.