The Artbar Museum Without Walls:
Artbar shall be asking its guests, if they would like to contribute an object, event or experience that is meaningful to them, for our metaphorical ‘Museum without Walls’ to creatre a virtual museum on the Artbar at the Raven blog. So, Justin, have you an object, event or experience you would like to share and contribute and could you explain why it is important to you?
‘An evening in Tafroute, Morocco.’
‘Thanks Dave, I would like to offer the Artbar Museum without Walls, a special musical experience. It was a community music event in North Africa that I went to one time, in 1992. It seems to exemplify a lot of what I find most inspiring about music. It was in southern Morocco in a beautiful town called Tafraoute. I heard that the local bigwig was coming to town and was throwing a party in a small village outside, in the country.
We went to this beautiful village and as the sun was going down behind the earth built houses people were gathering around the small square below the cliffs .There were about 300 spectators sitting or standing around the rugs laid out on the ground. There was a big charcoal brazier in the middle of the square and men in white robes were taking their circular frame Bendir drums around the fire to heat the skin of the drums , and when enough of them had their drums to a suitably resonant pitch they set themselves into a large circle of 40 drummers, and started to play.
The sound that came out began as an extraordinary dislocated slow beat, impossible to find where the pulse was for an outsider. After a while, they began swaying in a circular dance and started to sing, their voices resonating against the cliffs and echoing all round the valley. Slowly the piece built up into what became a juggernaut of a rhythm, the men started to move around faster and faster in a circle, they would build up to a climax and then break down into one of these strange jagged beats. The singing and dancing went on for an hour or so. Just as one was flagging, the most delicious meal was served to all spectators of lamb, fresh baked bread, prunes and almonds from the local trees. This was delicious hearty food and made you feel ready for more; the music was kept going in the background..
ahwach tifarkhin tafraout 2 احواش تفرخين تفراوت
Then at a certain point, a bizarre variation was added. About seven women appeared under one communal piece of highly decorated and bright material covering their heads with a light and embroidered piece of thinner material where their mouths were , like a speaker grille, so the voices could project through the material. They danced and sang like an wriggling caterpillar underneath the material and sang in high pitched, almost Chinese, bright voices.In front of them seven drummers played a syncopated polyrhythmic beat where each one would have their own rhythm, which taken on its own would seem to make no sense, but together they created a circular flowing rhythm. And just when you began to feel tired of this, the locals produced delicious hot sweet Moroccan mint tea and cakes! So that again, it was like a pick-me-up that added to the sensual delight of it all, this great evening went on for about five hours, sitting round on the carpets with this transcendental music building to climaxes and crescendos and then breaking down again, then slowly building up..
I think what I loved about the whole evening and what I love about this kind of music, is that it is not a performance of professional musicians who give their best show, it’s more like a whole community occasion, where there is no separation between music and life, no separation between performer and spectator, where a hypnotic musical language is used to raise the spirit of everybody, the rhythms and melodies made to take everybody, musicians and spectators alike , to a different place as a community. I felt that we were all taken away from the mundane and transported to a place where we were together and where the physicality of the rhythm enters our bodies and makes us feel grounded and uplifted at the same time.’
DM: Thank you, Justin for being our guest and good luck with the tour.
JA: Thank you for inviting me.