Can you guess what song I was most often asked to play at my gig in Casablanca, Morocco in 2003? “Play it AGAIN Steve! And again and again and again!!”
Here is Part 2 of my original posts from 2003 while I was in Morocco. I will be re-posting the entire blog, a total of 6 posts. The others are to follow soon—enjoy!
It’s getting a little more comfortable playing at the Casablanca Bar at the Hyatt Hotel. As Time Goes By, “The Song,” gets played every night. Here are a few pics of some people I’ve played for.
Aoufi and Abdullah are brothers-in-law and come in almost every night. Abdullah is from Saudi Arabia but spends a lot of time in Casablanca. Abdulla just left for Saudi Arabia to go to his nephew’s wedding. I asked him if there would be a live band at the wedding celebration. He said, “Oh yes! Two orchestras! One for the men and one for the women–the men and women celebrate seperately!”
Sunday, July 13 2003
It’s taken me a while to get these pics posted since I seem to have had “African Sleeping Sickness,” which was probably mostly jet-lag. Am feeling much better now! Last night I met a man named Mohammed, and after I finished work, he took me to a “festival” at another local hotel. There was Arabic music being skillfully played, louder than I’ve heard here so far, with violin, drums, “Moroccan guitar,” and keyboard–plus male & female singers. I wish I could have gotten some pics, but I was politely discouraged from taking pictures! Anyway, here are some previous journal entries:
Sunday, July 6, 2003
Haven’t ventured much from the hotel, but I did go out Friday to the marketplace in the old walled section of Casablanca—it’s nearby, almost across the street from the Hotel. I’m looking for an electric coffee maker for my room. I order coffee every morning from room service, since there’s no place to get it by myself like at a Motel 6. The attendant comes in his tuxedo carrying a tray with a white cloth and a small pitcher of heated cream next to the coffee. I tip him 10 DH—a dollar—and the price of the coffee is picked up in my food allowance. But really I just want a damn cup of coffee without all the bother. This marketplace has a very wide variety of goods.
I got to the marketplace quickly and right away a short, friendly smiling guy started showing me around—I was casually looking at watches and radios—without any sales pressure. Then I walked to the next store and he still continued showing me around. I was wondering what store he was connected with. The stores were all out in the open, some with walls or curtained stalls and some just with tables with a wide variety of goods and services. My new friend—whose name was Ahmad—spoke some English and gave me some good-natured jibes about my French. He was actually quite helpful in correcting my French phrases & pronunciation, and took me on a very interesting tour along the narrow alleyways with vendors of all kinds. He showed me an old Mosque (exterior only—infidels not allowed in), tables full of fruit, jewelry, spices, and crowds of interesting people, men, women, children, busily conducting their affairs in local languages. The sights, sounds and smells were quite exotic & different from those on the main street by the hotel (which are exotic in their own right). Then we ran into a friend of Ahmed’s named Mustafa who is a sailor (a pirate?) who said he had been in port for only a few hours. He spoke even better English and talked constantly as we walked deeper into the labyrinth of alleyways. Mustafa told me about his travels around the world and how he’d been working with English sailors. He said Ahmed was a very trustworthy man, and family man with three children and that I could trust him in every way. Of course, I had to trust them now since I was completely lost in the maze of high-walled corridors. I told them I had to go back now, that I didn’t have time to buy a coffee maker, since I had to start working soon. Je dois partir maintenant, I have to go, I said. They assured me we were on the route back to the main thoroughfare. It took what seemed a long time (probably only 20 minutes), and we did go through some unpopulated and suspicious-looking alleyways, but eventually we did make it back close to the starting point. They still wanted to take me to the coffee makers. Je l’ashte demain, I’ll buy it tomorrow, I said. I really didn’t have time. I reached in my wallet while Mustafa was making a pitch that Ahmed should be rewarded for his services so that he could feed his children, etc. I handed him 20 DH, and Mustafa’s attitude turned vehement with the implication I was swindling his friend in giving him such a small tip. I said I didn’t ask for his services in the first place (didn’t know how to say that in French, and, besides, I was mad!) I handed him another 20 DH bill, and said, “That’s a lot!” I walked away as Mustafa, even more vehemently, was saying, “That’s not a lot my friend……” I haven’t gone back yet for my coffee maker. Where’s the nearest Target?
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Yesterday I went to Rabat, Morocco’s capital. La gare, the train station, is easy walking distance from the hotel, and I took a 10:30 AM train that arrived in downtown Rabat at 11:30. Lynn’s close friend, Halima, lives in Rabat and met me at the station. I’d met Halima during Lynn’s going away party—which lasted three days!—when we went to a disco in Casablanca last week. The disco is also a fine-dining restaurant and is called Restaurant Le Balcon 33. We’d tried to eat there the night before, but the restaurant doesn’t even open until 9 PM. So after Lynn’s last night of performing we got there about midnight. We had a fabulous full-course dinner, listened to the music, and watched the dancers. The Egyptian dance music was the music of choice, Halima said, and they also played dance music from other Arabic countries, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, as well as American Rap selections (which didn’t seem to fit). The Egyptian dance music—some of which is also “belly dancing” music—was oriental-sounding and very infectious. The restaurant had low ceilings and was packed with people, and it was noisy, smokey, and hot, humid, and very lively. Among the diners were small groups of very beautiful young women, some of whom were accompanied by much older men.
Anyway, Halima and her husband own a very successful restaurant in Rabat, and she has just left her job working at the American embassy, and she had offered to show me around Rabat. Rabat is somewhat smaller, cleaner and less noisy than Casablanca. I saw the Parliament building and I believe Morocco’s King’s palace is near the city also. It was a relief to experience the relative calmness and breathe fresh air. We walked through the old marketplace where Moroccans indeed do their shopping. Business there is conducted in Arabic, not French, and there were no tourists around that I could see. One long stretch of the marketplace was devoted only to shoes. (I’m told that Marrakech has even more extensive shopping and more of an old-world feel). I bought a couple of CDs with Arabic titles. After lunch at the private yacht club—Halima, by chance, met an old high school friend she hadn’t seen in years—I was shown around the old Rabat, hundreds of years old, which was built by Moslems fleeing Spain at the time of the crusades. This walled compound—is it a castle?–is high on a hill overlooking the water, and the living quarters there are still used as condos and are not inexpensive.
The train back to Casablanca got me there in plenty of time for work. The trains are very comfortable in Morocco. I sat in premiere classe, first class, and the seat was very comfortable, a little better than an airline seat. I watched the countryside on my way back and thought about the history of the country I was in. Not too long ago the Spanish were here, then the French colonized, then in 1955 Morocco became independent. The King and others seem to be somewhat progressive, but there are other conservative religious groups vying for power—it will be interesting to see what happens.
Back at the hotel just before I started playing I met my manager’s acquaintance, a Frenchman named Serge Candiard who plays drums. He offered to play for free this Tuesday, and he’ll bring his bass player friend along too. The bass player plays electric—there are no stand-up jazz bass players in Morocco I’m told! Serge is an avid jazz fan and spends his time between Casablanca and Paris. If it works out, we may have a “jam session” a couple days a week!