The winds that blow through the city of the aliens are heady. Much more so than you might think. There isn’t a tourist guide who doesn’t praise the poetic virtues of the cries of the gulls, the hypnotic rhythm of the Gnawa music, the crash of the waves against the high walls or the song of the muezzin that wakes you up at the worst time of the night (you know, that moment mired in all the anticipated fatigue of the day, against which you can do nothing, and especially not fall asleep again – it’s horrifying!) It’s all part of the landscape. Just like the noise of the savannahs lying around, of the nasal cell phones that emit at every street corner of the Medina, of the “balek! balek!” of the coaches, of the unimaginable sounds that all the cyclists make to pass you, or of the “glou-glou” of the tea that is poured next to or into the glass.
(I’m talking about hearing here. I’ll talk about the sight another time).
Yet there is another sound, a sound that no guide can evoke, a sound that cannot be escaped. It comes from everywhere and insinuates itself into you first of all like a refreshing and exotic wave. Then it stays, digs its hole in your head, plants the sardines of its tent in your auditory cortex. Once in place, the intruder starts itching, scratching, making fire, taking out his keftas, in short he settles in without asking you anything! And then, nothing helps anymore. It’s too late, you’re caught, harpooned by a hunter with the patience and aggression worthy of Captain Ahab! Yet you heard nothing coming!
Rokia Traore and Ismal Lo have entered you.
The streets of Essaouira must be the place in the world where you hear their songs the most.
From far and wide, as you reach the next stone that will take you across a dry stream, you move from one island of RokiaTraore and IsmalLo to another, without even realizing it. You go from one pirate CD dealer to another. Your journey through the Medina is punctuated by two African music styles that have been repeated a thousand times over. You’d think these top musicians have only composed these two tracks in their entire lives. It’s a bit of a heady story. It’s got inside you. It doesn’t come out. It itches.
A merchant from RokiaTraoreetIsmaelLo opened up shop around the corner from me. It’s like he only sells “Laidu” or “Tajabone” because he plays those songs over and over again. Always. Always. That must be what “the night of times” is all about (even the curvature of space-time). But, for me, since the twentieth listening, it’s become unbearable (sorry Ismael and Rokia, but I really like what you’re doing!).
There was a time when, myself, at the beginning, I almost bought this beautiful sub-Saharan music (I really like this word, it seems to evoke another planet!). But I didn’t. You get disgusted with the abundance. Now it’s in my head, it’s running in a loop, and I don’t know how to stop the record. The music’s locked up and I’m the one who’s trapped!
I can understand why tourists passing through need to be given a hard-hitting approach. It’s the law of commerce. But please, Sidi note merchants, think of the Souiris! So that they do not become a people of the insane!
Change the record!
“Gniari malaykala, Ch’awé étchiko daan si sero.”
“They are two angels, they will come from above and fall upon your soul.”
excerpts: Tajabone by Ismael Lo.
If you look closely, the earth isn’t really round.