Sunday, 28 August 2011


Each year is different at the Festival and this year was particularly so without our beloved Bab Marrakesh Square as a venue.

It made a massive difference in two ways: –

* In previous years, when the square was used, we had a ring side view from our hotel balcony. This included watching the stage go up, and, at the end, being dismantled, the lighting checked, the sound system tested each day using the most delicious of music, and various rehearsals by performers. This all added to the atmosphere and the increasing excitement beforehand. This year, however, the square was used as a car park and so there was no atmosphere there at all. In fact, you would hardly know that the Festival was taking place.

* Normally, I would watch all the performances at Bab Marrakesh on the Friday and Saturday nights so I would see at least eight performances from start to finish. This year I saw far fewer because the remaining venues were some distance away. This meant that I spent a lot of time walking from a venue to venue zigzagging around a multitude of pedestrians and very often actually missing what I intended to watch.

However, having press badges again this year meant that the performances I did see I saw close up and I can't tell you just how exciting that is. So I can't really complain too much, plus I reckon I've lost about half a stone in weight because of all the walking, which is no bad thing.

And yes, it was a great festival again and I have come away with countless photographs which I shall be posting as soon as I can, and many wonderful memories, not just of the music but also of the people I met from all walks of life from the old lady begging on the street outside our hotel to meeting the American actor, Robert (Bob) Wisdom again plus his lovely wife.

Also, I have come back in a much better state physically. Last year I seriously compromised my back so this year I had small magnets placed all the way down my back on either side of my spine, plus, for performances I wore a support belt for my lower back and a tens machine. And that worked an absolute treat.

What I shall be doing next is to post individual reports on each of the acts that I saw at the Festival. But I will leave you with a brief summary of what lingers on my mind: –

*People are more important even than music.

*I never before realised how fortunate we are in Great Britain to have freedom of speech.

*There are logistical difficulties in trying to cover several venues in an evening and, at the same time, fitting in intake of food. So I now know what it is like to eat 'on the hoof'. One evening, for example, I ate nothing from breakfast until 11.30at night, when I managed to buy a barbecued corn on the cob which tasted far less appetising than it looked. And another evening, and I can hardly believe this, I found myself, at 1:30 am, shoving crisps into my mouth as I took photographs of Hassan Boussou and Jazz-Racines Haiti right below them on the photographers' plinth.

*Treating my time in Essaouira during the Festival as a job rather than a holiday worked well for me. My typical day was as follows: sleep in until about 11.30, have breakfast in bed, eventually wander up to the roof terrace, have a coffee and ciggie, do my exercises, have a swim, a spot of lunch if I could be bothered and then a kip on one of the wonderful space-ship shaped loungers protected by a blue latticed wooden covering, another drink and ciggie, wander back down to the room, have a bath, get ready, leave the room about 7.30, off to a venue or two to take photographs, grab some chips and crisps if possible, return back to the room in the early hours. Listen to some of John's recordings, check the photographs and get to bed about 4 AM. A very pleasant routine indeed.

*Meeting Bob Wisdom again was a pure pleasure. He is such a genuinely nice person, so charismatic and fun to be with and with a real generosity of spirit. Plus, he's a great fan of gnaoua music, which makes him my kind of person. And, it was lovely to meet his wife too. She has a serene air of composure which I found very calming.

*I now, much to my surprise, like jazz thanks to Jazz-Racines Haiti and Salif Keita.

*And, finally, I have found a new exciting band from Casablanca called Darga who I definitely want to learn more about.

P.S. For some strange computer-is-stupid reason these posts are all in the wrong order. I shall get my computer manager to fix this at the week-end.

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