Thursday 28 June 2012

Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival - June 21-24 2012

Updated  28th June 2012
Maggie and got back home on Tuesday, and as of today, I've posted three videos from the Omar Hyat concert to YouTube. I've added a plylist below, which wil grow in the weeks and months to come. I'll write something later. Enjoy!

They published the dates for the 15th Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival - June 21-24 2012 - shortly after the 2011 festival ended, so I've waited till now to start this post on the 2012 festival. Earlier today, the organisers held a twit-fest in conjunction with a press conference, when they announced the artists who will be performing this year. The program itself has not yet been published, but they have declared which venues will be used - the same as last year (unfortunately, Place Bab Marrakech will still just be used as a car park. Funny thing is, when I first arrived in Essaouira, back in 1972, we parked our van on some rough ground just outside the Marrakech gate - plus ca change - as they say).

As last year, the two main venues are Place Moulay Hassan and Scene Meditel, on the beach. While it's still largely a free festival, you can buy a “4 day pass” or a “1 day pass” gives access to room in front of the stage at the two major Festival venues. You also have to pay to get into the intimate music sessions at Zaouia Sidna Bilal, Dar Souri, and Bastion Bab Marrakech. Most of these events cost 100 Dirhams.

Anyway, getting back to the festival, here's a list of the artists taken from the festival web-site :
  • Carlou D (Senegal)
  • Djembe New Style
  • Fareed Ayaz et Abu Mohamed (Pakistan)
  • Hoba Hoba Spirit (Casablanca)
  • The Issaoua Brotherhood (Essaouira)
  • Maâlem Abdelkader Amlil (Rabat)
  • Maâlem Abdelkebir Merchane (Marrakech)
  • Maâlem Abdellah Akharraz (Essaouira)
  • Maâlem Abdelouahed Stitou (Tanger)
  • Maâlem Abdenbi El Gadari (Casablanca)
  • Maâlem Abdeslam Alikane & ... (Essaouira)
  • Maâlem Allal Soudani (Essaouira)
  • Maâlem Hamid El Kasri (Rabat)
  • Maâlem Hassan Boussou (Casablanca)
  • Maâlem Mahjoub Khalmouss
  • Maâlem Mohamed Kouyou (Marrakech)
  • Maâlem Mohamed Lebbat (Marrakech)
  • Maalem Mahmoud Guinea (Essaouira)
  • Maâlem Mokhtar Guinea (Essaouira)
  • Maâlem Mustapha Bakbou (Marrakech)
  • Maâlem Omar Hayat (Essaouira)
  • Maâlem Rachid Fadli Ladhass (Rabat)
  • Maâlem Saïd El Bourki
  • Maâlem Saïd Oughassal (Casablanca)
  • Maâlem Saïd Tahlaoui (Safi)
  • Mobydick
  • Musiciens de Bob Maghrib (Morocco)
  • Musiciens de Mayara Band (Morocco)
  • Nasser (France)
  • Oumou Sangaré (Mali)
  • Querencia
  • Soweto Kinch quartet with ... (UK)
  • Sylvain Luc trio
  • Trio Joachim Kühn, Majid Bekkas, Ramon Lopez & les Gnaoua de Salé (Germany/Morocco /Spain)
My, it's tedious, copying and pasting all of these links, so, maybe I'll get around tgo finishing that later.

So, what sounds good to me?

Fareed Ayaz et Abu Mohamed - Quawalli musicians from Pakistan should be good - I saw Mehr Ali and Sher Ali a few years ago, and they were superb. That was before I started to record and film at Essaouira, but I still have a pretty strong memory of them, so I have high hopes.

Oumou Sangaré from Mali is the only woman to be billed this year - a pretty poor show, if you ask me. She's new to me, but she played here in 2003 - musically, one of my favourite years, so I'm looking forward to her.

Musiciens de Bob Maghrib promise a feast of gnaoua-inspired reggae (or maybe reggae-inspired gnaoua) that should awaken my inner rasta, so watch out, folks.

Omar Hyatt always puts on a great show, but what I really like about him is the way he grooves with jazz and rock musicians, so, I'm interested to see who he'll be playing with.

Hassan Boussou with Nasser and MobyDick will give us electro-rap-gnaoua which should be interesting. Rap's not my favourite, and French rap sounds even less appealing, but Boussou is not a man who makes bad music, so, I'm going to hang fire on my opinion - I'll let you all know how it turns out.

I'm quite excited about Trio Joachim Kühn, Majid Bekkas, Ramon Lopez & les Gnaoua de Salé - Majid Bekkas plays a couple of numbers on my 2003 festival CD - Galou is one of my all-time favourites, so this set is a must for me.

Update: I'm very happy to say that though he wasn't listed originally on the web-site, the Press Dosier says that Maalem Mahmoud Guinea will be playing after all. Hurray!

I'll take a closer look at the line-up in the coming weeks and try to listen to some of the musicians who are new to me, but at first glance, it's looking good.

Thursday 3 May 2012

New Dutch Wietpas / Weed Pass - Much Worse Than I Thought!

I was in Amsterdam yesterday and was told the gist of this by a well informed source. Everything he said is as described in the extract below, taken today from the Netherlands Government's website.
My source also said, but this is not confirmed, that an individual would only be able to register with a single coffee shop, preventing both socialising, and the ability to exercise choice as to where you would like to smoke at any given time of day.
A few years ago, they stopped you being able to buy alcohol in a coffee shop, which also prevented mixed groups of people who wanted to both drink and smoke from socialising in the same place.
My source also asserted that the new measures would push drugs back onto the streets, where sales would be uncontrolled, organized by local criminal gangs with power struggles likely to cause injury and even death.

Not everyone who visits Amsterdam and other Dutch cities goes there to smoke. It's a wonderful place that you can enjoy in so many different ways. But all visitors will be effected by this, since the safe streets and canals that they enjoy walking along late into the night will not feel or be so safe any more.

I've been visiting The Netherlands for over forty years and I've always loved the people and the country for their practical, pragmatic, and progressive attitude to life. I'm saddened by this move, but I hope that sense will prevail. Please support the opposition to these changes. If I find a focal point for that, I will append it here.

There's some good, independent commentary here: 

This links to a translation of the Wikipedia Weitpas page, currently only available in the Dutch language.  

Rules on coffee shops to be toughened up

The aim of drugs policy is to limit damage to public health and combat nuisance and crime. This policy is now being stepped up.
The ‘open door’ policy currently pursued by coffee shops will come to an end. The objective is to combat the nuisance and crime associated with coffee shops and the trade in drugs. Coffee shops must become smaller and easier to control. Dutch drug policy needs to become less attractive to drug users from abroad. Coffee shops will be small, private clubs that focus on the local market.
In recent years the trade in drugs has grown in scale and has become more professional and commercial. In response to this, the approach to organised drug-related crime has been intensified.
In order to achieve government objectives, the rules on cannabis and coffee shops are being tightened up:
  • coffee shops will become private clubs, with a maximum of 2,000 members;
  • membership will be recorded in a membership list;
  • the coffee shop will provide members with a membership card;
  • only residents of the Netherlands aged 18 years or older will be eligible for membership;
  • no coffee shop may be located within 350 metres of a school;
  • from now on cannabis with a THC content of 15% or more will be classified as a hard drug.

Membership lists for coffeee shops

Coffee shops owners must maintain membership records. The cabinet expects that drug tourism and nuisance related to drugs will be managed better as a result of private coffee shops. The following rules apply to membership records:
  • the applicant member must be older than 18 years of age and resident of the Netherlands. He has to prove that he fulfills those two criteria by producing a valid identification document and an extract from the Municipal Personal Records Database. The extract must be more recent than 4 weeks;
  • the membership must be longer than one year; 
  • those who are not members may not enter the coffee shop;
  • the maximum amount of members one coffees hop can have is  2000 .

Membership card for coffee shops

The owner of the coffee shop has to make sure he only allows entry to members. Membership can be checked by a membership card (also referred to by the media as “wietpas” (weed card.) The owner of the coffee shop can also check who is a member and who is not.

Membership lists and membership card to be introduced gradually

The new rules will be introduced gradually:
  • the amendment of the toleration criteria (as specified in the Opium Act Instructions) will come into effect on 1 January 2012;
  • the new rules will come into effect in the following provinces on 1 May 2012: Limburg, North Brabant and Zeeland (with the exception of the rule on the maximum number of members);
  • municipalities in other provinces may also choose to introduce the new system as of this date;
  • as of 1 January 2013 all rules, including the maximum number of members, will apply throughout the Netherlands.

Informing drug tourists

Non-residents of the Netherlands cannot become a member of a coffee shop and can therefore no longer use them. This will apply in the provinces Limburg, North Brabant and Zeeland as of 1 May 2012 and in the rest of the Netherlands as of 1 January 2013. Information on the new members’ system are be available at the website
The site will also provide:
  • information on the new rules in 4 languages (Dutch, English, French and German);
  • information on drug addiction, with details of addiction care in a range of European languages;
  • information for municipalities introducing the system. (For instance on communication tools (including leaflets) that municipalities can utilize. This part of the site is only accessible for municipalities.

Minimum distance between coffee shops and schools

There will be a ban on locating coffee shops within 350 metres of secondary schools and secondary vocational institutions. The aim is to introduce this rule by 1 January 2014.

Saturday 24 March 2012

Michan Mijsbergh 'Eat Your Heart Out' exhibition at the GO Gallery, Amsterdam

I was lucky to be in Amsterdam last week and able to catch Eat Your Heart Out - Michan Mijsbergh's first solo exhibition at the Go Gallery. If you are anywhere near Amsterdam before the end of April, you must visit . I was blown away by this young man's (he's only 21) outstanding talent. Don't miss it. Here are some examples, from photographs I took there. Thanks to Oscar and Farud for being so gracious.

You really should click on these photographs to see them full size - the detail is very fine. Sometimes you feel you are falling into the chasms of his creature's faces.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Don't bug me!

How many times does software ask me this question and how many times does it take any fucking notice of what I tell it? Too many and too bloody few. Apple is probably the worst. Yes friends, Apple which is so 'user friendly'. The number of times I don't want to be told about any more iTune updates. Problem is, the option to say 'no more' is just a check box on a pop-up, and my guess is that when I press the X to quit the pop-up - there's no other way out that doesn't involve saying yes to the update - the check-box option is lost.

Realplayer has a good variant of this. It produces a little pull-down menu with a list of time periods that it suggests you might want to to be reminded after. The first few times, it shows - and I'm remembering this, so may have it wrong - 1 day, 7 days, 4 weeks - something like that anyway. So, I select the longest period. Then in 4 weeks time, it asks me again - and this is the clever part - now it adds a new option - "Never remind me again". Great I think, I'll select that. What it should say is "Select never, you fool, because I think your memory is shorter than mine, so when I ask you again, you'll have forgotten that you ever said never. Foolish user."

Thing is, I'm not just a poor old end user - that's what we call them in the software business - but I work for a major software company, and have been in the IT business for about 45 years - most of my working life. So, if this stuff pisses me off, how does the average user feel about it?

I've just been rereading a great book - The lunatics are running the asylum  by Alan Cooper which I recommend to everyone, whether you are in the software business or not. The problems I mentioned up top are minor compared with some of the scenarios he lists in the book.

My take is a little different to Cooper's. He seems to think that it's all because the programmers don't understand who their real users are - so they build software for super-geeks like themselves. Thing is, I'm a geek and I hate this stuff. I hate the way software treats me like fucking imbecile. I can only put it down to purposeful action. Companies want us to be in thrall to their systems. They want us to be fearful of their software.

Hey, when we had real bank managers - rememeber them? - who you would go to see and ask for a loan or a mortgage, you'd be terrified. You'd dress up in you best suit and practice how you'd answer their questions. Now they just build their software to get you into the same state of terror. Will this transaction complete? Will I have to put all of the data in again? Why do they want to know that? Agh! Not sure if you sense the frustration in that. I considered recording a little audio clip, and attaching it, so that you could clickon it and you'd hear me vent all of it - all over your speakers. Not just 'Agh' but 'AAAAAAAGGGHHH', but, you know, life's too short.

Anyway, next week, Maggie and I are off to Amsterdam for a little R&R. It's been a while, and, as you can probably judge, I'm in need of a break.

Tarra (that's ciao in Geordie)