Monday, May 19, 2008


My singular complaint of the Mawazine Festival is that on many nights, there are too many concerts that I want to attend – I sheepishly admit that this is a good predicament to be in, though. Furthermore, many of the venues are spread throughout the city; so it can take a half an hour (not including traffic) to get from one scene to another. On Saturday night, for instance, there were three acts (at three different venues) that I really wanted to check out: Ziggy Marley, Goran Bregovic and Tony Allen.

Despite this dilemma, it should be highlighted that there is a major advantage of having so many venues in so many different locations: this format allows the general public to attend more shows. My friend Amine pointed out that many citizens of Rabat are not able to easily move around the city (due to expensive cab fares and other factors); so, by having venues in each section of the city, theoretically, there is always a stage nearby.

Anyways, on Saturday night, I ended up attending the Goran Bregovic concert at the Bouregreg with several friends, including Amine (who I am staying with) and most of the members of Hoba Hoba Spirit. Bregovic scores many films (yes, including “Borat”) and has over a dozen solo records. The concert itself constituted the strangest live-music experience of my life: Goran Bregovic’s music is the epitome of unique.

Born in Saravejo, Bosnia, Mr. Bregovic plays with a massive, twenty-nine-piece band. Mr. Bregovic sits in the front of the stage, plays the electric guitar and sings. The band consists of a string section, a brass and woodwinds section, a male choir, two female vocalists and a bass drum player. Although Mr. Bregovic employed minimal percussion into his music, there were very strong beats, and often, in “abnormal” time signatures, like 7/4.

My initial reaction to the music was that it sounded like Balkan wedding music…but astronomically more expansive. Because of the sheer size of the band, there are so many layers of music: in the most positive sense, listening to Goran Bregovic is a very overwhelming experience.

After staying for an hour or so, the members of Hoba Hoba Spirit and I decided to check out Tony Allen, who was performing in Hay Ryad – on the opposite side of the city.

Tony Allen, born in Nigeria, is credited for founding Afrobeat music – a mix of jazz, funk and African rhythms. Mr. Allen was the drummer for Fela Kuti, the most famous Afrobeat musician.

Saturday evening’s band consisted of a bass player, guitarist, saxophonist, trumpets, hand percussionist, and of course, Tony Allen himself. Mr. Allen was playing a modest five-piece, cherry-colored Yahama kit.

Although Mr. Allen is approaching seventy-years-old, his chops are still in full form. Because of my press pass, I was almost able to get right on the stage: it was incredible to have such a close vantage point. Watching his jelly-like hands was inspiring.

Considering that it was raining, there was a good turn out for the show. I was disappointed that I was unable to stay for all of the Goran Bregovic show, but I would not have forgiven myself if I passed up on seeing the legendary Tony Allen.

Saturday night was a strange mixture of music – Eastern European and Nigerian – yet, that just highlights the diversity of the Mawazine Festival. The videos are below the pictures.

Redefining the notion of "big band" music

Adil can't get enough of those Balkan beats.

Goran Bregovic plays the guitars. Tuba player wears best pants/boots combination ever.

Tony Allen at the Hay Ryad scene

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