Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival 2011 - June 23-26

Updated 24th July 2011
Updated 5th July 2011

We've been home now for about a week and Maggie and I are really missing being there. We had a wonderful time, met lots of old and made lots of new friends, and, of course, heard some great music from some oustanding performers. I recorded about 12 hours of video, about 6 hours of audio, and took about 1500 photographs - of which disappointingly few are any good. Armed with my press accreditation, I was able to spend time at the Hassan Boussou - Jacques Schwarz-Bart residence in the three days leadng up to their performances. You can read more about that, and see the videos I took here. I'll add all of the videos I post to this Essaouira 2011 playlist, so check back every now and again in case I've added any new ones.

As Maggie has written on her blog - link - it wasn't quite the same out the big Bab Marrakech square, which this year becane an increasingly busy car park!

I loved Brother Jacques' project - Jazz Racines Haiti, both on their own and when they played with Hassan Boussou. Trilok Girtu's drumming and tabla playing - sometimes simultaneously - was a wonder to behold, complemented by Carlo Cantini's mournful violin (see the playlist for a great example).

Between Worlds were pretty good on their own, but when they played with Maalem Hamid El Kasri up on the new Bab Marrakech Bastion, the music entered a different realm. I managed to sneak a short video of them playing part of the old Nusrat Fateh Aki Khan favourite - Mustt Mustt - that I have now posted - you'll find it in the playlist. Humayun Khan's voice and harmonium playing were outstanding.

This set reminded me of the Ali brothers - Mehr Ali and Sher Ali - who played Bab Marrakech in 2006 - before I started to record  music in Essaouira - now they wer really something. We often play thir CD - Qawwali, The Essence of Desire - 4 long tracks, each about 15 minutes - music to take you to another place. After a sound-check, one afternoon, I saw them walking with their musicians - a line of princes, the crowd parting before them. "Where's my camera, where's my video" I thought - well, it's in my head - we all carry one around with us all of the time, and it's moments like that that live with us forever - camera or no.While not a replacement for Place Bab Marrakech, the Bastion is a great venue. seating about 600 on rugs and bolsters, on a slight rise going up from the low stage, all under the open skies with a view over the town to the sea beyond.

Darga were an eye-opener and a very refreshing one a that. while Ribab Fusion, who led out at the closing concert are the band to watch.

The finale of the festival featured four (4) maalems playing together, but what I'd billed as the Battle of the Maalems tuned out to be more of a friendly chat. Each maalem played a solo session while the others stood around, tapping their guimbris, wanting to join in - but that wasn't the plan. The they went round one more time. Only for the ninth and final number did they all play together, but by that time, quite frankly I'd lost it, and can't quite recall much at all and missed part of the recording. All in all though, a good festival with some great highlights.

I lost three pieces of equipment - one on them quite expensive - but was reunited with them all by the end, so "Thanks guys".

Countdown to Essaouira 2011
The 14th Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival will be held this year from Thursday June 23 to Sunday June 26. There are no more details yet on the festival web site, but the dates are now public along with is new banner, so I guess it's safe for you to book your flights and accomodation. I've already booked our usual room in Essaouira.

Maggie and I are applying for accreditation again this year - I let you know how we get on with that.

Update 15th May 2011

At last, they've posted the program for 2011 at http://www.festival-gnaoua.net/festival_essaouira/pages/index.php

Here're the highlights. I've indicated the countries in brackets, if not indicated, they are from Morocco. I've also added links to the web sites for some of the artists.

You can also download a 56 page Press Dossier as a pdf file . There's a version in French and another in Arabic. Whereas the program on the web site is built using Flash, so you can't copy the text or print it out, the pdf version can be copied and printed. Updated 29/05/11 There's also a version available in English now.

According to the program, there will only be two (2) sets at Bab Marrakech on Friday and Saturday - one at 8pm and one at midnight. Last year, there were 4 on the Friday and 5 on the Saturday - starting each night at 7:30 pm,

The program also talks about a new stage at the Bastion Bab Marrakech not the Bab Marrakech square, and they show a picture of the bastion. The text says that the bastion houses / shelters (abrite) the concerts. At first, I could'nt believe that they planned to hold the concerts inside the bastion - it just isn't big enough for the large crowds that normally go there. Then I saw that you have to pay for the Bab Marrakech stage. Only Place Moulay Hassan and Scene Meditel (on the beach) are free! Can this really be true? I hope not.

Another sign of down-sizing is the absense of the Pepsi stage. I never went there myself, but they seemed to use it for electro-fusion aimed at younger people.

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