Sunday 25 November 2018


I first saw Titi Robin and Medhi Nassouli play at the Essaouira Gnawa and World Music Festival last June/July 2017, playing another of their compositions and it was, for many people, including me, the best set of the whole festival. Therefore, I was keen to see them perform again so I was disappointed when neither of them were at the festival this year. However, I discovered that they had recorded a CD called TAZIRI, so I bought a copy from Amazon and again found the music an absolute delight, playing it over and over again in my car, full blast with the roof down, just to let the good people of Winchester get a taste of some world class World Music.

Fast forward to this October. John Knutson and I were travelling through France and Italy in our Motor Home and by a wonderful piece of good fortune, we discovered that Titi and Medhi were to play their Taziri music with Habib Meftah and Francis Varis in Poitiers on Friday 12th October. We looked at our road map of France and saw that on that day we would only be 50 kilometres away. So, we changed our route so that we could go to the concert.

The venue was La Quintaine, a theatre built only three years ago with seating capacity of 240 people, therefore providing an intimate atmosphere, situated in the Poitiers suberb of Chasseneuil du Poitou. It's an attractive building with a large foyer fronted by glass windows with a bar (always a plus) and the auditorian has steep rows of seats either side of the central aisle so everyone can get a good view.

We arrived the day before and the receptionist, Stephanie Millet, could not have been more heplful. She agreed to give our cards to Titi and Medhi with a request that we could video and photograph during the concert and thankfully our request was granted. Also, Stephanie said that we could leave our Motor Home in the parking area for the concert and overnight, which made it so easy for us to just amble over for the concert and leave our dog, Betsey, inside without being kilometres away.

We got there early so that we could get a good seat and again fortune was on our side: we got seats right on the front row in the middle. Could not have been better. The stage was ready for the performers, with blue lights shining down on their chairs and instruments, which added to the sense of anticipation.



The auditorian filled up very nicely and then the main lights dimmed and Medhi and Titi came onto the stage and there was applause and then a hush and then they played the first track of Taziri.


 Medhi Nassouli (guembri, chant,percussions) and Titi Robin (bouzouq, guitare)

Then Francis Varis and Hamid Meftah entered the stage and Taziri continued.


 Francis Varis (accordeon) and Habib Meftah (percussions)

We, the audience, were then treated to an evening of absolutely divine music, composed by Titi and Medhi, including Medhi's translation of Titi's French words into Arabic. The original line-up for the CD included Ze Luis Nascrimento (percussions), Foulane Bouhssine (ribab) and Rumberos Catalans (palmas). Francis Varis also featured on the CD and he played in this concert but the power-house that is Habib Meftah had to do the work of the missing three, playing a variety of percussion instruments with tremendous energy and timing.

It's such clever music, with a melodic tune which creeps away and then comes back full force. Sometimes the music is rather wistful, at other times so exciting you just want to get up and dance. And there are so many influences: Francis' accordian reminded me of France, Titi's guitars of Spain, Medhi's guembri of Morocco and Habib's percussion playing gave the music body and a rythmn that sometimes just went wild with passion. And then there was that tune again bringing everything back. Plus, of course, Medhi's vocals with a voice like melting gold. Genious.

One of the delightful elements of the concert was not just the way all the instruments and Medhi's singing worked beautifully well together but also their obvious joy in performing and making such fabulous music. They sparked off each other and sometimes Medhi and Habib would challenge each other with their playing and at one stage, Titi, Medhi and Francis just sat motionless, watching Habib going crazy with his interpretation of the music.

I have this idea that we all take from music, as with literature, what we want and relate to it in a way that touches our own experiences and feelings so I'll let you just listen to the music to enjoy in whatever way you choose. But I would add that this music, for me, gets better the more I listen to it.

These are the six videos I recorded. They are all on my You Tube site ( Maggie Knutson - You Tube) so you can watch them there as well.

At the end, when all four performers had left the stage, there was a standing ovation and eventually they returned to the stage. But Titi had a trick up his sleeve: he asked the audience to get up and dance whilst they played again. I didn't need any prompts. I kicked off my shoes, got down from my seat and let myself feel the music through my body, as did most of the audience. And then, Medhi invited us to sing along with the refains and that was great fun, too. And then they left the stage and again there was a standing ovation but it really wasn't fair to ask the guys to come back again so eventually we gave up and gradually people headed towards the bar, where Titi and Medhi were signing programmes.

It was an experience I shall never forget. John and I had seen a lot of beautiful places, in particular the stunning Alps, and met a lot of interesting people and done a lot of enjoyable things during our six week trip but, for me, this concert was way and above the highlight of our travels.

Just a few more things I want to say:-

* What is it about percussionists? They seem to absorb the music they are playing and go emotionally into a place of rapture, using all their body as they play. I have now seen four percussionists play like that: Habib Meftah in this concert: Ze Luis Sacramento (in Essaouira last year with Titi and Medhi, plus Shuheb Hasan and Murad Ali Khan), Yacine Ben Ali (Essaouira this year with Maalem Mohktar Gania and Gnawa Africa Experience), and the percussionist with 
Imarhan (Essaouira this year). It seems as if they can make music from just about anything they touch.

* I've never seen the accordian being played before and I'd never thought that it was a particularly exciting instrument but I've changed my mind after seeing Francis Varis' performance. He really rocked that accordian and it seemed so unbelievably flexible in his hands, creating the most wonderful of music. And at times, he seemed to be on a different planet altogether, so consumed was he by the music.

* Habib Meftah is part of a collaboration of musicians who have just released a CD called The Long Journey, which is available on Amazon. The principle artists are Roger Waters (from Pink Floyd), Mahmoud Darwish and Mohammad Motamedi and they call themselves Le Trio Joubran.

* Taziri is also available from Amazon (streaming, audio CD or MPS download)

* And finally, here is a selection of the photographs I took :-

Medhi Nassouli and Maggie Knutson.

Maggie Knutson is a fiction writer, journalist, blogger and music fan. Her latest novel Walkies is available now - to order a copy, write to