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Whirled music

Market Day in Had-Draa

I experienced some Gnawa music in Essaouria, Morocco, before Christmas. A style that clearly falls into the category of World music, but perhaps should better be described as ‘whirled music’, given the staggering acrobatics performed by one of the percussionists at the evening concert I attended. It was in a small restaurant, and the rather comical attempt to get what we ordered, not to mention our mint tea, inspired me to write a song in a World Music style.  You can listen to it by clicking on the player at the bottom of this post . It’s called “The Tea Song” and the lyrics are below:

The Tea Song

Sitting on the cushions in a distant dark medina
Where the cutlery could be cleaner
And I order the Tagine, a dish that’s famous around these parts

And ‘when in Rome’ appeals to me
So ordering some sweet mint tea
We sit and watch musicians three
Play Gwana music from their hearts

And the whirling and the twirling
and the cymbals and the band
try to obfuscate the problem that lies readily at hand

Namely not a drop of tea appears
No chicken, cous cous, so the tears
of desperation flow unbidden all across the land

Where’s me tea?

You’ll get your tea

Where’s me tea?

You’ll get your tea

There’s a tiny little hatchway in the old medina wall
Where precious little food comes through
if anything at all
And the soup I ordered vanished
Like a mirage in the sand
And the couscous without spices is unenviably bland

Where’s me tea?  etc

Sitting and receiving of the bill as we are leaving
Makes for interesting reading
And I’m having trouble breathing as creative accounting starts

The dishes three, we thought were free
A substitute for soup you see
Were never complimentary
But cues for our sinking hearts

And that sweet moroccan delicacy
Tea thats made from mint
May well never now be served by some be-veiled and slothful bint

She’s too busy doin nowt to put the kettle on the boil
And I’ll never get to try it while I’m on this mortal coil

Where’s me tea? etc

Lyrics and Music © 2012 Kev Moore

January 21, 2012 Posted by | Home Studio, Music, Recording, Touring, Writing | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gnawa (Gnaoua) – Music of Morocco

Every year, on the Northwest African Atlantic coast, in a cool little Moroccan town called Essaouira, the Gnaoua World Music Festival is held. It creates a fabulous melting pot of fusion for musicians from all cultures, to mix with the mystical gnaoua, or gnawa, musicians of Morocco.

Gnawa music is a mixture of sub-Saharan African,Berber, and Sufi religious songs and rhythms. It combines music and amazing acrobatic dancing. The music is both a prayer and a celebration of life. Though many of the influences that formed this music can be traced to sub-Saharan Africa, and specifically, the Western Sahel, its practice is concentrated in North Africa, mainly South-western Algeria and of course, Morocco.

The music is almost trance-like, with very repetitive lyrics, and some songs can last up to several hours.  It largely emphasises the tonic and the fifth, and the pitch play, and especially the flattening, around the third and fifth, is clearly the language of the blues.

Central to this fascinating music are the two main instruments. The Qraqab, which are large metal castanet-like percussion instruments, usually played furiously when the dancing and twirling begins, and The Hajhuj, which is a three string instrument, a direct ancestor of the Banjo.

They are harder to play than they look, requiring a sort of ‘claw’ posture from the hand to pluck and bounce off the animal skin soundbox.

We spent a few days in Essaouira, sadly not at festival time, but I met a young guy who made Hajhuj’s, and very beautiful they were too. Luggage restrictions made it impossible to take one home, but when we go over with the Motorhome or car next year, you can be sure one will be heading for my studio!

We managed to hear some real-live Gwana too, as we went for mint tea and couscous in a restaurant in the heart of the Medina, a Gwana trio entertained us with some mesmerising music and dancing. The next Essaouria World music festival is on June 24th 2012.

Kev Moore

December 30, 2011 Posted by | blues, Music, Recording, Thoughts, Touring, Writing | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment