‘Tis the gift to be free
That photo was taken in Tamraght and shows yours truly with our friend Hassan from the ‘free people’. Away from the tourist honey pots Morocco still delights and seduces, but there is increasing evidence of political colonialism being replaced by cultural colonialism. Concern has been expressed here as to how “Western artists travel to countries in the East and the South that possess rich musical traditions… they collect music, repertories and musicians from there and return to fructify this godsend in the privileged world of the well-off West”. But the fructifying also works in reverse, with Moroccan musicians increasingly aping Western styles: just one example is the new CD Alwane from oud master Nahil Khalidi which deploys saxophone and string bass in a refined example of ‘elevator taqsim’. This cultural colonialism meant that, ironically, some of the most authentic sounds we heard on our travels in Morocco came from my iPod. These included Les Imazighen [Berbers or ‘free people’]: Songs from the Middle Atlas from the Institut du Monde Arabe – one of the few record labels that still challenges listeners to rise to the level of the music, rather than vice versa.
* No review samples were used in the preparation of this post - such is the stranglehold of piracy in Morocco that I bought one of the few available legal copies of Nahil Khalidi's Alwane in a Moroccan supermarket for little more than £1! Header photo is (c) On An Overgrown Path 2013. Also on Facebook and Twitter.