I just returned stateside from a life changing dream trip to Essouira, Morocco with legendary bassist, Jamaaladeen Tacuma. He asked me to join Wolfgang Puschnig, Ahmad Compaoré and him to perform at the Gnaoua Music Festival. We would also be joined by Maalem Hassan Boussou and his crew to create on onstage cultural exchanged of traditional Moroccan music with American funk & electronic.
Upon arrival in Marrakesh, I had images in my mind of this mystical and exotic place. My first steps on the North African land felt euphoric, like I had been there before in a past life. The first sounds heard were a mix of Arabic and French dialects filling the airport. We were greeted by the festival family to drive 3hrs to Essouira, which is a small town with big heart.
After the surreal drive through the semi desert and metropolis, we arrive in the town. We are greeted by our amazing host and guide, Fouad Wardi. We walk through the extremely colorful town to our Riad (traditional Moroccan house), to be warmly hugged by Fatima, the house caretaker and love giver.
We are immediately whisked away for a traditional Moroccan meal, that was the beginning of a whole new and constant eating schedule! Wow!
After a well deserved sleep in my King size bed for a King, we all had our first rehearsal. I was very nervous, since I needed to find my voice within the context of what Jamaaladeen is doing and the traditional players. What I learned is that less is more.
Forgot to say that when we arrived a very serendipidous meeting between old friends took place. Jamaaladeen had run into actor and longtime friend, Bob Wisdom (from the Wire). We went to meet the 'unofficial' mayor of the town! His spirit is magical.
The next few days would be filled with magic, from wandering around the mystical town in search of colorful fabrics and bags, to rehearsing with the top musicians from Morocco. It all was a whirlwind of cosmic dust and positive sorcery.
Now, the big day. We are on at 8pm and the butterflies had landed for sure. Rehearsals were beyond beautiful and it was time to share it with the sea of 3000+ people for our set.
The experience totally changed the way I listen to music now, and dance music in particular, since the Gnaouan tradition is very repetitive trance music essentially. I will be returning very soon.