Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hypnotized by Berber music

October 29 2012

I love to sample different kinds of music when I travel.  I thoroughly enjoy latin, arabic pop music, any sort of eurotrash dance, thai pop, east African - I love it all. When a taxi driver takes me somewhere new and blasts his favorite radio station, I'm in 100%, humming along in the back seat.  I even enjoyed and wrote about the deafening salsa music in Panama.

2 days ago back in Tamtattouchte, Karim and Abdul #2 were playing Berber music videos in their car.  Groups of women in colorful robes sang in warbly, high voices for 30 seconds, then a group of men would answer.  Call and respond, repeat, repeat, drums, flute, repeat, repeat.  That was when I realized how much Berber culture was its own thing.  It was odd to see young guys getting so into the local village music. But that was what they liked!

My new driver, Mubarak (above), picked me up from Merzouga and we set off for Fez - after he ran a few of his personal errands.   We paid his electric bill and I had one of my biggest regrets of the whole vacation - we went past a hilarious billboard of someone milking a camel and I didn't stop to take a photo of it.

I was pleased to see this sweet interior car door design! Ha!

Another taxi with just a bar to hold onto and no seatbelt.  I put my backpack-airbag on my lap again.  

We headed over the east side of the Atlas mountains, which weren't as steep or scary as the route between Marrakech and Merzouga.  Merzouga to Fez was much less sickening.  There was rain and we did witness a recent car accident, which scared me but I was starting to feel flu-like and didn't think about it so much.

Here is the beautiful Ziz valley - another Oasis-type landscape.  Mubarak insisted that I go out and take a photo.  I felt so sick and sleepy and didn't feel like it but looking back, I'm glad he made me:

Mubarak was another enthusiastic fan of Berber music.  I thought every song sounded exactly the same.  I asked him "what is this song about?" and he would say "love, and village life".  Another hour went by and I asked him what THIS song was about.  "Oh.. I think it's about love.. and life". 

After 4 hours we stopped in a town so that Mubarak could get something to eat.  I thought that meant "5 minutes out and we are back on the road".  He asked if I wanted to eat, too but I just felt like staying in the car.  I didn't eat, pee or drink anything all day.  I was too tired.  I just locked myself in the car and watched it rain on a small, muddy town.  45 minutes later, Mubarak came back to the car.   And turned on more identical, warbly loud repetitive Berber music. 

I was not enjoying it at all but it was keeping me awake.  I recorded a voice clip on my iphone of one of the 5,000 identical songs we listened to that day:

you may have to click on the arrow to play it. I hope it works so that you can feel my pain. 

Later I looked up a little more information about Berber music.  Thanks, wikipedia!
Berber vocal styles in Morocco consist of two main types. The first, called Ahwash, is exclusively village music, probably unchanged for centuries or longer. Ahwash texts emphasize the submission of the individual to the community. Typically, it consists of two large choruses engaging in call-and-response vocals, accompanied by instrumentalists and dancers. Since this music requires anywhere from 20 to 150 participants, it is not easily portable and so rarely heard in the cities.
Much of the most interesting Berber music is not pop at all, but rather village and urban folk music. It is important to understand[ that the whole subject of Berber music and culture is inevitably colored by Berber people’s longstanding struggle to achieve basic language rights and identity recognition in modern North African societies.[2
And I hope that I never have to spend an entire day listening to it, ever again.  But it gave me some local flavor!

We arrived in Fez during rush hour.  Mubarak spent an hour and a half circling the city and using trial and error to get to my hotel.  I kept asking him if he wanted me to pull out a map and show him where it was.  Just like every boyfriend I've ever had, he did not want to use a map and much preferred to get us very lost until I got angry.

Eventually, we called my hotel and between the hotel, my map and more trial + error, we found the gate to the old part of town where the friendly hotel night manager of Dar Seffarine was waiting for me with an umbrella.

Something was broken in my original hotel room and they upgraded me to the most beautiful suite I have ever seen.  This is one of my three rooms! 

I decided to enjoy being sick in my nice room and tackle confusing Fez the next day. 

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