Morocco, Reggae, and Revolutionaries
I first listened to Darga as we drove to Chefchaouen. The song “El-Khattabi” played on the stereo while one of El-Khattabi’s grandsons’ drove the car. The song could have had an arrogant feeling in this context (Do you know who my grandfather was?!). However, the music was so good (reminding me the ska and reggae music I listened to as a teenager growing up in suburban Maryland), the scenery of the Rif mountains beautiful, the attitude of our guest so genuine, that the song inspired feelings that were exotic, removed, and oddly familiar. I could imagine El-Khattabi inspiring his tribe to stand strong as they navigated the Rif Mountains, the scene unfolding to the soundtrack of my adolescence.
When we got to Chefchaouen, I “bought” a copy of the Darga CD Stop Baraka from a music store near the Plaza al-Hamam. While I waited for my copy of the CD to burn, I watched the butcher in the next stall feed stray cats chicken heads, feet, and other miscellaneous pieces. He opened the small door to his stall so that the littlest of them could come inside and eat in safety. This gesture of generosity somehow became embedded in the music.
As a teenager going the tough task of growing up, I locked myself in my room and listened to the wisdom of Bob Marley. As a young adult, I reached out to Morocco, the country of my future husband. And as a woman and mother, I seek ways to consolidate the best of American and Moroccan culture for my daughter. I’ve found Moroccan music and art carry the shared messages of our cultures and the cultures beyond us.
In Rabat, I mingled with trendy youth, who listened to the classic Steel Pulse album True Democracy. I danced to Ziggy Marley at the Mawazine festival. I listened to things both strange and familiar and the audience listened with me; families, children, street kids, grandfathers, vendors, and police.
Back in the States, I loaded the Darga album onto my ipod and began to listen to the tracks in more detail. Track eight became my favorite. I had my husband translate the words for me. It is a song about the problem of racism. The last minute of so of the track includes inspiring words of Martin Luther King, Jr (Darga MP3 Clip). On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January 19), one day before the inauguration of President Obama, I will reflect on how much we share across our cultures. I will dream and dance.