Friday 29 September 2017


I have just finished reading this novel and I have to say that I'm glad that I've finished it. It's not that I didn't enjoy reading it because I did but I didn't feel as engaged with it as I have with other novels.

I was first introduced to Doughty's writing when I read Apple Tree Yard last year, well before the excellent BBC adaptation, and I really loved this novel. Firstly, because the main theme of a middle-aged woman finding sexual excitement when she least expected it appealed to me and secondly, because I really admired her writing style. Envious in fact.

But Black Water is a very different kettle of fish. For a start, I didn't like the beginning which made it clear that something really nasty was going to happen to the main character, John Harper, and personally I don't think it's a good idea to give away the ending at the beginning. I could see Doughty's reasoning as she weaves a story - zig-zagging from different times and different countries - leading to the ending. Clever writing, yes, but perhaps too clever by half.

So, the central character, John Harper, which is not his real name, has had a difficult childhood with a dead father and erratic, alcoholic mother, who drags him from Holland to America where she marries into a lovely African-American family only to drag him back again to Holland after an awful tragedy.

Because he is of mixed race, he is of use as some sort of secret agent in Indonesia but he feels a misfit, belonging no-where. His job is to secretly pass on lists of potential communist members and sympathisers to the authorities in Indonesia. It's dangerous work and at times he has to be ruthless to save himself.

As a balance to this unsavoury work, he has a brief affair with Rita, a teacher, whilst he is hiding out in a shack just outside a town in Indonesia. Rita is everything his wife isn't and for a time we hope that his dream of a simple life with her (buy a small piece of land, build a house and just enjoy being together) will come true but given the beginning, it looks like an impossible dream, thus denying us any sense that at long last he will have a happy life.

I really liked the portrayal of Rita. She's a well-built lady with loads of confidence and understanding. Non-demanding and fun to be with. I could have done with more Rita in the novel. But as for Harper, I couldn't really connect with him. Not my kind of guy and with few redeeming features. And yes, the dreadful thing did happen so no surprise there.

I shall certainly read more of Doughty's novels because she is a splendid writer but for me Black Water didn't really work. Shows just how important character and structure are.

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Dog In The Pram

Dog In The Pram
Maggie Knutson

Maggie Knutson ©2011
Maggie Knutson has asserted her right to be identified as the author of this work.

This is one of my short stories inspired by Archie, our previous dog, who had a very penetrating but endearing stare. It was a runner up in the Exeter Writers Short Story Competion a few years ago.

The dog would simply not budge. I hissed as loudly as I dared: “Scram … Scat … Scoot … Push Off … Get Lost” but he just stood defiantly in my Grass Enhancement Area and fixed me with his gaze. I took my shoe off and hurled it towards the creature. It struck him on the chest and pain flickered across his eyes but still he would not move. I am not given to anxiety but I could feel panic spreading through me like an injected drug.

“Go away,” I breathed. “Please go away.” I sank onto my allocated Square Block of Patio and switched off my mind for a moment to gain some composure.

The dog sank down, too, his back legs sprawling outwards like plump, furry chicken legs and his front paws crossed comfortably, as if he had settled down to watch The Screen or was waiting for supper. But one thing was for sure: he was in no hurry to leave.

In The New World, governed by the only political party left - the B.C. Party (originally the Politically Correct Party, then the Be Correct Party and now just the B.C. Party) - there were three categories of dogs: Working Dogs To Help The Human Race, Laboratory Dogs To Advance Science, and Pet Dogs To Reward Key Workers.

All dogs were chip coded, collared according to type, and monitored regularly by special vets, who had the authorisation to exterminate any dog that showed signs of sickness. All dogs had their teeth and voice boxes removed on birth to eliminate barking and biting, and breeding was strictly supervised. Added to this, no dog was allowed to wander freely and, appertaining to my own immediate dilemma, was to be reported instantly to The Peaceful Life Police. Every moment I delayed, placed me in greater danger.

It, the dog, was locking our eyes together with his penetrating stare and I was not so much hypnotised as mesmerised. I had long learnt not to engage in meaningful or prolonged eye contact. If one wished to progress at work or survive amongst neighbours, it was essential to adopt the Submissive Eye Technique. But, to my surprise, I felt pleasantly exhilarated by this unexpected canine encounter.
It was a contact, a communication with another living being and it was stirring something within me, a hazy memory flittering shadow-like across my mind, of pleasurable times when all creatures, human and non-human, were free to interact. And, shockingly, I knew that by allowing these memories to surface, like a nuclear submarine flouting the rules and taking a little peek at life above the sea level, I was entering extremely dangerous waters.

I sighed. You could get me into a lot of trouble, dog, I thought, as I looked into his deep brown eyes.

I know.

I went as rigid as a corpse.

Can you read my thoughts? A silly question to be sure because he had just done so but it went against everything I had previously known or experienced or even read about.

Yes. This single thought-word scared but thrilled me.

But it’s not possible. You’re just a dog. Still disbelief.

Excuse me! I’m not just any dog!

A thinking dog with attitude – just what I needed!

Obviously! I replied.

This was becoming surreal. I drew within myself and considered the implications. Perhaps my imagination was playing silly tricks on me. But…I was also intrigued. If this was a laboratory dog, and its thin grey steel collar indicated as such, then who knows what kind of experiments he had undergone.
It always chilled me to see the latest advances in science as shown on The Screen. Only last week, we had been told of a breakthrough in the use of DNA from horses to help fybromyalgia sufferers. Although these advances were to be welcomed on a personal level, it often worried me that we had crossed some kind of unnatural boundary.

The mixing of human and animal genes was, I believed, experimenting dangerously with the unknown. I might have called it playing God but religion had been outlawed and it was unsafe to express such views. Still, despite my distaste for such experimentation, I had to deal with the fact that I had a feisty dog-like-no-other lounging on my lawn.

He was a beautiful, too, with soft, short fur, which was predominantly white but interspersed with a splattering of fudge-coloured splodges over his eyes, ears and back, like a child’s inexperienced painting. He was compactly built and certainly some kind of hybrid. In this state of ultra concentration, I could see his nose twitching rabbit-like and one ear stood erect, as if it were an antennae.

His face was amazingly structured, a canine version of a piece of delicate art worked with bones and veins. His small chest was strong and muscular, and fanning out from the base of his spine was a long, pure white, furred tail that I was sure would feel soft, if I did but dare touch it. And here was another memory, even more clearly formed than the last, of the deliciously sensuous touch of rich velvet, rose petals, fine silk, and yes, the naked body of another human.

But, suddenly, the dog tensed. He sat up, all muscles alert. I strained to hear what he was hearing but in the fading evening light, I could only detect the muffled domestic noises of my fellow neighbours.

Turn your Screen back on the dog commanded.


Turn your Screen back on! he repeated, only this time more urgently.

My first instinct was to object. It was bad enough taking endless orders from my Sponsor, Irma, but to do so from a dog rankled. However, it wouldn’t hurt to put the damn Screen back on. It was mandatory, after all, and switching it off was certainly reckless.

To me, The Screen was not only intrusive but often obscene. The latest craze for Murder Reality TV disgusted me, and The President’s Daily Address assumed that we were all gullible idiots. Perhaps we were, but surely we didn’t need to be constantly reminded. So, I had spent one rain-swept weekend sitting cross-legged next to the controls and drinking endless cups of Happiness Tea, learning how to adjust both the vision and the sound so I could turn off either one or the other or both. At least my time as a technician with IBM (now both bankrupt and discredited) had been educational.

What about you? I asked the dog.

I shall stay here.

I was sure I would wake up in the morning and realise that this was just one of those strange dreams you get when you drink too much Happiness Tea. Nevertheless, I dutifully trotted into my living area, readjusted The Screen and settled down to watch.

It was The President: a youthful, well-groomed man who spoke with an air of benign authority although I did sometimes wonder if he were the absolute power he claimed to be. Perhaps the B.C. Committee pulled the strings or even The Faceless Ones who were alluded to in muted tones at work. My speculations were too radical to articulate publicly. And anyway, who would I tell them to? Friendships were frowned upon and so I had no friends.

“I wish to remind you all,” he was saying, “that your Screen is state property and must not be tampered with. The punishment for doing so will be immediate removal to The Correction Area …” and so on. I had heard enough. Adding two and two together and making five, I deduced that there must be others, too, who broke the rules. My spine tingled with excitement at this idea. I was not alone.

It was then that I heard the ominous roar of powerful motorbikes. The Peaceful Life Police had arrived and I was in no doubt as to whom they were to visit. Thank God I had readjusted my Screen.

On gaining total supremacy of the country, The B.C. Party had immediately resolved the on-going problem of too few police and too many prisoners. In a neat and effective move, they had released all prisoners and transformed them into a new, ultra-tough police force, whilst locking up all police officers.

My visitors were two teenage girls: the most brutal of all the police. They might look like caricatures with their black leathers, chewing gum and layers of spiky mascara but their heavy silver chains clanging by their sides were feared by all citizens.

These two looked as mean as hell, so I kept my eyes averted. I could smell their disappointment on discovering the loud flickering Screen. They moodily poked their batons to displace the few possessions I had, but they could find no reason to give me a Chastisement and they brushed out as dismissively as they had entered. I listened as their boots echoed menacingly around the deserted streets (we were now past curfew time) and then the shock of engines as they sped away to some other hapless citizen.

I wondered who could have reported me but that was futile. It could have been any one of my neighbours. Life had become like that. After this unpleasant experience, I was tempted to pop a Diazepam (standard issue for all) but I sought out the dog, instead, inexplicably hoping that he had not been frightened off.

I couldn’t see him but I could feel him watching me.

“Thank you,” I whispered, and the shade of darkness altered by the wall as he emerged into moonlight.

And then, Come on, Dog, I projected. Come inside before any of my nosey neighbours see you.

You called me Dog. Is that your name for me?

I guess so.

I’ve never been given a name before.

And I swear that Dog swaggered inside.

I fed him warm cereal mixed with milk and sat on the floor close by, with a cup of tea, watching as he sucked in his supper, his eyes closed and long, ginger lashes resting gently on his cheek-bones. His chest was rising and falling in rhythm with his heartbeat and it occurred to me that this must be how new mothers felt, before their babies were taken away to their Allocated Homes.

But I checked this impulse of sentimentality and once he had finished his meal, I allowed my rational self to take control.

I could get into serious trouble doing this.

I know.

So, what do you want from me?

I want you to take me to The Land Of No Return.

I looked at him in horror.

That’s impossible.

No, it isn’t.

I’ve got too much to lose.


‘I have a good job…this flat...’

More silence.

I’d be risking everything I’ve achieved and then there really would be no return.

But Dog did not answer. Instead, his eyes became like a pair of secret screens that showed flashes of scenes of unspeakable brutality. I shrank back in shock and my heart, frozen for so long, burned with anger. I was seeing, as if I were there myself, the awful truth about animal experimentation and it was not the painless, cosy scene that we had all seen on The Screen. It was indescribably foul.

Dog showed little emotion but the earnestness of his expression revealed an anxiety for me to know. Yet, still, I demurred.

You’re asking a lot of me.

You are my last chance… as I am yours.

I sucked in breath.

Let me sleep on it.

Sleep was a surprisingly peaceful sensation that night, given all that I had witnessed, for Dog was curled into a tight ball at the foot of my bed, so obviously trusting of me, and the last thing I could remember was hearing the sound of his gentle, controlled breathing, which was strangely comforting.

I resolved to go into work the next day. I needed to be able to think without Dog’s pleading eyes absorbing my every thought. All was normal until lunchtime, when I was leaving the office for my mandatory Teeth Perfection Treatment, and I felt an unaccustomed movement on my cheek. Instinctively, I checked myself in the mirror, which, in magnified form, covered all walls and ceilings.

There was a small black insect crawling over my cheekbone and the instant I realised that it was some form of dog parasite, my eyes locked straight into the puzzled stare of Irma. Irma had a Reward Dog: she would know about such things. I flicked the insect away casually and, with disguised haste, set off for my appointment but, once away from the building, I paused against a wall to regain my breath and to curb the surge of undiluted fear that threatened to betray me.

Irma was a loyal Party member. She would report me for illegal contact with a dog, despite my value as her most senior software creator. I would be arrested on my return, secretly bundled out through the basement and whisked away to a miserable destiny. My flat would be repossessed and Dog returned to the hell that I had seen in his eyes.

I ignored my appointment and headed straight for home. A Young Mother was carrying her baby inside a nearby flat and her brief, miserable glance my way strengthened my resolve. I must escape.

Dog was waiting for me, sitting as alert as radar, eyes bright with expectation. Quick! We’re leaving! I swept into the kitchen and pushed provisions into two plastic bags. Then I hurried to my secret hiding place and retrieved my most treasured possessions, all banned items. There was a well-thumbed photograph of a vase of sunshine yellow flowers, a mouldy bar of milk chocolate, and a battered old brown leather cigarette case containing a lighter and one cigarette.

I shoved them hastily into my pocket and opened the front door, Dog at my side. There, in front of us, was the baby’s shining new pram with sufficient room for one dog under my two bags. The problem of how to smuggle Dog out had been my most pressing priority and yet here the answer was provided for us. It was then that I realised that God had not deserted me.

Dog and I did not need to communicate, our thought patterns now so in tune, even after such a short period of time. He jumped as lightly as a soufflĂ© into the pram, I placed the bags on top of him and thus we set off…

So, that is how the amazing partnership between Dog and myself came into being. And how did we reach the safety of The Land Of No Return (which is actually called The Land Of Freedom)? Now that’s a fascinating story. Perhaps Dog will tell you that one, when you have managed to escape, too.

Thursday 3 August 2017


Bob Music is probably the quirkiest and most interesting shop in Essaouira and well worth a visit. Owned and run by Abdul Oubella, it celebrates both Gnaoua music and Bob Marley (hence the name.) Bob Marley, as we all know, was a reggae musician, not a gnaoua musician, but he is VERY popular in Morocco and in a way, Abdul helps keep his name alive by his impressive display of Bob Marley photographs, just as many Moroccans do by sporting incredible dreadlock hairstyles, which are extremely fetching.

Inside the shop, which is at 3, Rue Youssef Ben Tachfine (close to 104, Avenue Sidi Mohamid Ben Abdallah) there are a wide range of musical instruments ranging from guembris (the Gnaoua equivelent of the guitar) to drums to krakebs to....just about everything.There is also an impressive selection of records plus posters of Bob Marley for sale. Added to this, is Abdul's knowledge of music - he's like a walking, breathing encyclopedia of music. Ask him a question and he'll probably know the answer.

When Ky-Marney Marley (one of Bob's sons) was in town to play at Bab Marrakesh (an absolute fantastic set I might add), he payed a visit to Bob Music and below is a photo of Abdul with Ky-Marney.

Ky-Marney Marley and Bob

Abdul was at prayer when I took the following photographs but his assistant, Hamid was there.

John attempting to play a guembri


Hamid on krabebs, John on the guembri

Bob Music shop

Some of Abdul's photos of Bob Marley


Quite frankly, I could look at photos of Bob Marley all day and not get bored. I don't think he will ever be forgotten: his legacy most certainly lives on.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Abdul now also has a silver shop at 104, Avenue Sid Mohamed Ben Abdallah, close to Bob Music. This is worth a visit, too, because he has a fantastic range of beautiful jewellery. I bought four pairs of ear-rings and they are very much admired - and reasonably priced, too. And, good quality.

My four ear-rings

And Finally - my motto for The Festival is IT'S ALWAYS ABOUT THE MUSIC

Insh'alla, I shall be reporting on The Festival next year

Tuesday 1 August 2017

The Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival 2017 - PART FOUR - RAY LEMA and MAALEM ABDESLAM ALIKANE (with special thanks to Mohamed Ali El Barnoussi)

To start at the end, we, the audience, would not let Maalem Abdeslam Alikane and his eight dancers off the stage. He would finish a number and take a final bow and then we'd plead for another song and so he'd very kindly oblige and then, when that song had finished and he took a final bow, we'd plead for just one more song.....and so on until, was it two in the morning or later?...probably later...and Abdeslam looked in no hurry to vacate that stage. It was a truly great way to finish The Festival.

So, back to the beginning. In 2007 John saw Ray Lema (piano/keyboard player from Congo) and Maalem Abdeslam Alikane play the last set at Moulay Haasan Square whilst I was watching Asian Dub Foundation with a Gnaoua group (can't remember the name) from the comfort of our hotel room balcony overlooking Bab Marakech Square. When John returned, I said: "You missed a fabulous set," and he said: "So did you."

And then he played what he had recorded and it was pretty darn good and is one of our favourite pieces of music to listen to, particularly on holiday.

Now we jump to 2017 and we've arrived early in Eassouira days before The Festival and John blags his way into the Residence where Ray Lema is practising with, yes, Maalem Abdeslam Alikane, in readiness for their set on the Saturday night. And during a break, John chats with Ray Lema about that memorable 2007 set and told him that he had recorded it and actually had a copy in the hotel room. Would Ray Lema like a copy? (John had brought loads of different recordings to give away to anyone who loves the music.) Of course, Ray Lema would like a copy and so John goes and fetches it and takes it  back to the Residence and gives it to Ray Lema's agent.

So, the next day, I tag along with John to go listen to them practising again. Ray Lema's agent doesn't want John to film the practise but I sneak these two not brilliant photos. But the important thing is that they sound really good and once they've played a section, they go over it again and again to perfect it, which is most impressive. Had I had my wits about me, I would have asked the names of Ray Lema's drummer, guitarist and saxaphonist but I didn't so I can't tell you. (I was rusty about the whole Festival thing because we hadn't been for four years. I managed to get myself into top gear just as The Festival was finishing but I'll certainly hit the ground running next year... with a better camera!)

Ray Lema, Maalem Abdeslam Alikane and Ray Lema's guitarist

Ray Lema's drummer and saxaphonist

Now we jump to Saturday 1st July and 'Scene De La Plage' - the venue right next to the beach - and Ray Lema and Maalem Abdeslam Alikane were due to play the very last set, starting at midnight. Thankfully, the weather was quite mild compared with the evening before when it had been so cold and windy we couldn't face walking along the promenade to get to this venue, missing some acts we really would have liked to have seen.

The last set of The Festival is always a poignant affair because it heralds the end of The Festival and I really felt I hadn't heard enough music; partly because The Festival was only three days this year and not the usual four; and also because there's no such thing as 'catching a quick supper in a restaurant between sets.' What I really wanted was more Gnaoua Music and, thankfully, that's what I got.

Anyway, the VIP area was not so crowded at the beach venue compared with Moulay Hassan, which was pretty hectic, and I managed to wriggle my way almost to the front. The only thing between me and the barrier were two young Moroccan men. So, I asked if I could stand in front of them to take my photographs and they very kindly agreed.

Whilst we were waiting for the set to start I got into conversation with one of these charming men and he told me his name was Mohamed Ali El Barnoussi and that he was a great Roger Federer fan - even had a photo of him on his phone. I'm a great Wimbledon fan so we could have chatted for ages, plus we were both fans of the music, but then the set started and we focused on having a great time. So, thank you Mohamed Ali for allowing me to stand in front of you - it was very much appreciated. (We're now Facebook friends and hope to see you at the Festival next year, Mohamed Ali.)

With two lovely young men behind me, I also had a small child on either side of me who were fascinated by it all and a very pretty young Moroccan woman, totally dressed in white with a white headscarf, who almost knocked me off my feet because when the music started she began to dance in almost wild abandonment, so clearly enjoying herself. So, the only thing to do was to dance myself, obviously being careful not to knock either or both child over. Pretty crazy, is how I'd describe it and lots and lots of fun.

What Ray Lema brought to the set was his own Afro-jazz fusion with his guitarist, drummer and saxophonist so in a way it was a double fusion and the moving in and out of Gnaoua and jazz and then both together made for an exciting sound, as you can listen to later on. My only critisism is that Ray Lema's group were very much in the background and I would have liked to hear a few solo pieces from them. However, it was still a most enjoyable set.

Some okayish  photos but I hope they capture the essence of the set





Curtain call, or so we all thought


But after Ray Lema and his team left the stage, Abdeslam and his dancers remained and that's when we had a real Gnaoua fest. So, it was best of both worlds: we had fusion and Gnaoua. And those dancers should receive medals because they had to keep dancing and dancing and dancing. It was fabulous.

To see the DaftNotStupid videos of this set click below:

THE FESTIVAL HAS ENDED - LONG LIVE THE FESTIVAL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Wednesday 26 July 2017


Just occasionally, The Festival throws up a performance that you were totally not expecting - totally, different, totally unique and totally wonderful. I'm thinking, in particular of The Korean Drummers  (Samulnori Molgae) and The Ali Brothers - Mehr and Sher (from Pakistan) from way back when Bab Marrakesh was used as a venue. (In my opinion, this was the best venue of The Festival and it was such a pity when they stopped using it. I noted this year that it's been dug up - no doubt for shops or housing - and the place looks all wrong, bringing the new part of Essaouira far too close to the old part. Since writing this, I have discovered that in fact this square is being made into mainly gardens, which I'm very pleased about.)

I was reminded of both performances when listening to the set I'm about to describe: The Korean Drummers because they displayed an amazing sound and energy just using drums that quite took your breath away; and The Ali Brothers who were so spiritual that it made the hair on your back stand on end.

The Titi Robin et al set had both these elements and more because it also included a remarkable Gnaoua Group, led by Mehdi Nassouli who brought Gnaoua element into the mix, plus four remarkable musicians: Titi Robin, Shuheb Hasan, Murad Ali Khan and Ze Luis Nascimento.

Here's a little taster which, by some miracle, I managed to record on my little Lumix camera:

So, to start at the beginning, this was the first set on The Saturday night, the first of July, at Moulay Hassan Square and I really wasn't expecting to hear such Divine music which just got better and better as the set progressed until I really didn't want it to stop and still can't get out of my mind even several weeks later.

What follows are brief descriptions plus some okay-ish photos of the performers (going to get a better camera for the next Festival):

Medhi Nassouli and Titi Robin


Titi Robin from France is a composer and improviser, and plays the guitar, buzuq, mandelin and oud. He has been influenced by a whole range of music - Mediterranean, Gypsy, Oriental, European and Arab - plus poetry and paintings, and he's also written the film score for a number of films, as well as recording a number of albums. So, quite a talented musician to say the least.

Even more so since I have just discovered that Titi composed most of the music for the set, chose the musicians personally to perform the piece, weaving in some of the traditional Gnaoua music and allowing individual improvisations and directed it all whilst playing the guitar or a mandolin (with holes in!) That explains why it was such an exceptional, haunting set and now I know it's unique, which pleases me no end.

Medhi Nassouli is one of the most talented musicians I have ever seen or listened to and having watched numerous videos of him on You Tube in order to research this post I am actually in awe. He is far more than a Gnaoua 'Maalem' and that is no disrespect to Gnaoua 'Maalem's. Officially I couldn't find anywhere in my research that labelled him a Maalem but he certainly acted like one in this set, directing his four dancers with a small nod of the head or a smile.

I've found descriptions of Medhi as being an artist musician, a singer, a bassist and a frame drummer. But the truth is that his talent can't be fitted neatly into one label. In the many videos I've watched of him, he is often the star of the performance and he's worked with many, many other musicians. I suspect, though, that his collaboration with Titi is the most intense.

His main instrument as far as I can see is the guembri. For such a seemingly basic instrument it can make an incredibly vibrant, distinctive sound and Medhi appears to adapt it to the genre of music he's playing. I particularly liked the jazz videos and I'm wondering just how far Medhi can go in revolutionising the use of the guembri. Am I being fanciful in thinking that Medhi can do to the guembri what Jimi Hendrix did to the guitar?

So, Medhi travels the world playing with different musicians and playing different types of music but at The festival he led his Gnaoua group and played the guembri and a frame drum. I've never seen him perform before because we missed the last four Festivals but I hope to do so many times in the future because he has such a tender, expressive voice which glides effortlessly through the air, and a beautiful smile, which could melt a thousand hearts. And sometimes his face is so expressive, it was as if he was telling us a story that he cared passionately about.

One thing I haven't mentioned before are the wonderful Gnaoua costumes. I'd love to have a look at some close up to see just how they are decorated and I must admit I was green with envy seeing all the outfits that Medhi has. He has an eye for design and style as well as an ear for music.

Medhi and Titi have played together before a number of times and there seems to be a really good understanding between them, sometimes sparring against each other with their instruments. There are some delightful videos on You Tube of the two playing together and they have released a CD called Taziri (which I have ordered from Amazon) which also features Ze Luis Nascimento, who also played in the set.

Mehdi's Gnaoua Dancers (plus singers plus krakeb players)



Shuheb Hasan and Murad Ali Khan


Shuhab Hasan is a vocalist from a distinguished musical family in India, also with an incredible voice and lovely smile. Whenever he opened his mouth something beautiful came out. His hands were most expressive and he also appeared to be telling a story. And at times he sang a repeat so quickly and for so long I had no idea how he was able to breathe. Although I'm no expert, I'm pretty sure that this was Sufi singing, which is most spiritual.

Standing serenely, in his pink tunic and black trousers and his hair ruffled by the wind, waiting to sing, he looked for all the world like a Bollywood Film Star. And, I have to admit that I was intrigued by what appeared to be connected buttons down part of his tunic made of what looked like diamonds. But whatever they're made of they looked very classy.

Murad Ali Khan is also from a distinguished musical family in India. In fact, he is a sixth generation sarangi and sitar player, with an impressive CV including playing the sarangi in many major music festivals around the world as well as in India, and has won many awards. He's also played with Lady Gaga and Yoko Ono and for Bollywood and Hollywood films. He enjoys playing both classical music and rock and fusion music.

The sarangi is an incredible instrument. I'd never heard it before but I am truely hooked. Apparently, it's popularity was declining in India and Pakistan until Murad brought it to audiences around the world, raising its profile, which was Murad's intention. His passion no less. It's wonderfully melodic (with up to fifty strings) and at times sounds like a human voice. It complemented the voices of Medhi and Shubeb and one flowed into another into another effortlessly.

Unfortunately, I have no full photos of Murad because he was sitting down and because I was in the VIP area not the press pit, I couldn't move around to take good photos of either him or Ze Luis Nascimento, both of whom were mainly masked by photographers.

Just to let you know that both Murad and Shuheb play in an Indian fusion rock band called Soul Savaad with records available and Murad also has records also available.

 And finally:-

Ze Luis Nascimento - the Brazilian drummer and percussionist whose face expressed sheer joy and whose energy and skill was exciting to watch and to listen to. Ze Luis trained initially as a dancer with Bahian Folk Ballet before becoming a musician, which doesn't surprise me because he seemed to let the music invade his body through the drums, which he played with just his hands.

Ze Luis has developed his own unique style of playing and is in great demand as both a solo artist as well as working with many other musicians. He has an impressive list of CDs and albums, participating in the recording of over a hundred international albums. So, we were very lucky to see him perform in Essaouira. An absolute delight, in fact.

The world-renowned Persian percussionist Habib Mefta was due to play with Titi Robin et al but unfortunately had another engagement and couldn't make it. Perhaps next year they can all play again at The Festival, including Habib. Now that would be something. Come on Festival organisers, an early request.

But back to the set on the Saturday. What I was really impressed with, as well, was that each musician communicated with each mainly just using eye contact and their smiles showed just how much they were enjoying the fabulous music they were making.

Here are some more photos:-




Can't tell you how thrilled I was to find another short video on my camera so here it it is:-

And to view the whole set, courtesy of daftnotstupid click here and .....enjoy.

But a final plea.I have spent hours watching videos on You Tube in order to write this post and have been highly entertained. We all do it, those of us who love music. But we don't pay a penny for it and the musicians don't get paid every time we watch them on You Tube. So, my plea is this: if have enjoyed a musician's music and he or she has a CD out - BUY A COPY. I have also ordered a copy of Murad Ali Khan's sarangi playing from Amazon and will explore how to find CDs recorded by Soul Samvaad, currently not available on Amazon.

NEXT POST - coming soon - Ray Lema and Maleem Abdeslam Alikane