February 15 2008
...warmer of course, Morocco I think. Mainly because it's the warmest place that I have ever been, and because I have actually been there. In my memories, I can see the potholed streets and helter-skelter traffic on cities like Tanger (rhymes with danger), Meknes and Fez. I can feel how awash in sensation, raw, real and imminent everything was as well as being new to my eyes. And while I would live into a good number of stories of those days and nights in North Africa, what memory stirs me here is that amid all the new and amazing and unfamiliar and strangely comfortable; in the gangle of my experiences I remember one experience as distinctly as any other-- buying music.
O ne of the truisms of culture is that where there are people there also is music and the places I bought music in Morocco were of one main variety, the street vendor. They'd be everywhere, with the smaller ones setting up tables by thoroughfares and others, slightly larger on the souks or old markets. In any case, I bought a lot of music, cassettes mainly, of music new to me then, called gnawa. Imean I love it now, but I'll never know why I chose it then... a random recommendation I suppose... and the same that led me to one of Morocco's most famous groups, Nass El-Ghiwan.
Their music is amazing and they are referred to as The Rolling Stones of Africa, as Martin Scorsese once put it. Not only that, but they are living legends who merge the rich repertoire of traditional music of Morocco with modern subjects. But when I heard it for the first time I was entranced. This is real trance music, sort of musical centrifuge that should you surrender to the dance of it you are also opening up to a form of bliss, deep rhythmic and sort of unpretentiously spiritual that is in no way cheap, but rather full of great soul. I say The Stones got nothing on these cats... and I have a video to share with you to show...
and another even... this one is with another Moroccan legend Jil Jilala... notice the banjo which, by the way is an African instrument