Tonight the Bou Regreg hosted Los Van Van as part of day three of Mawazine’s festivities. The redeveloped waterfront space is perfect for large outdoor events. The crowds near the stage included boys who built themselves into pyramids and fell roughly on top of each other. Their fractures and bruises would be wells of pride in the coming week. Someone waved the Cuban flag and the stage was decorated with a light display of Che Guvera’s face. Every time the musicians said “Morocco” the crowd would roar, understanding them selves to be an important part of the event. A bit farther back, a group of women played a Moroccan song on a small radio and watched a toddler dance. Further downstream from the stage, families wandered the renovated pedestrian walk ways. Street vendors sold fruit and kefta cooked on small grills. Families enjoyed a small dinner away from the crowds but well within reach of the music.
At the Ziggy Marley performance on Saturday May 17, night two of Morocco’s 2008 Mawazine festival, I wouldn’t risk having my camera’s flash disturb the scene. In my over ten-years of traveling to Morocco, I’d never seen a diverse cross section of Moroccan society enjoying the same social event.
The vibrant colors and abstract ornament that characterize Moroccan design find voice in the many music festivals celebrated in Morocco each year. If you visit Morocco this summer, expect to hear the sounds of music in the streets as music festivals around the country celebrate diversity and promote peace. From Whitney Houston and Ziggy Marley to trance-inducing Gnaoua musicians there will be something for all musical tastes in 2008. Each festival includes an intellectual component with seminars and conferences exploring musical history and cultural diversity.
I imagine Hamlet could hang-out in a city like Essaouira. The air in the coastal town felt particularly damp after the desert drive from Marrakesh. The sky was overcast, the fishermen wore knit caps, and the Portuguese fort overlooking the water had an air of melancholy. As I walked the fortress looking out at the ocean, thoughts of Shakespeare vaguely formed in my mind, interrupted by sounds of chanting and music. I looked down to see Thuya wood artisans crafting inlaid tables. Young apprentices were busily working on their project and stopped to bring the older men mint for their tea. The men played drums while one man made music with his work by chiseling wood to the heavy beat.