There is something very special about attending a concert at the open-aired Bouregreg scene: just behind the historic Oudayas district, the Bouregreg has a clear view of Sale, the sister city of Rabat, which is located just across the river. Because the venue has a large capacity (about 90% of which is free for the public), there always a good turn out, and thus a positive atmosphere for a concert.
Tuesday night at the Bouregreg featured the salsa superstar, Issac Delgado (yes, that is how you spell his first name). Born in Havana, Cuba, Issac Delgado is best known for his smash hit, “La Vida Es Un Carnaval.”
Like most salsa ensembles, Issac Delgado’s band was rather large, fourteen members in total; specifically, keyboards, an electric standup bass, two trombones, two trumpets, one baritone saxophone, a synthesizer, two background male singers, congos, bongos and a timbales “kit”.
The percussion section was fabulous: the main drummer played a hybrid drum kit, which included a bass drum, two big timbales, a snare drum, two crash cymbals, a pair of mini hi hats, two metal cowbells and a jam block (a plastic wood block). It was a pretty neat set up. In addition to that player, there was a hand percussionist who played three large congo drums, and a third percussionist who played the smaller bongo drums and the occasional cowbell.
As a drummer, the rhythms in salsa, timba and mambo music are always extraordinary. For a clarification, timba is a form of salsa that is originates from Cuba – it is very similar to salsa, but is distinct. Mambo also is similar to salsa; yet, interestingly enough, mambo music is directly derived from West African music used in religious ceremonies. In fact, the word “mambo,” can be translated as, “conversation with god”.
What is so enjoyable about salsa music is that each song tells a story: the composition of the music follows the flow of the story, thus allowing each piece to be distinct. While Cuban Spanish can be somewhat difficult, due to the plethora of slang and dropped syllables, for the most part, I was able to understand the lyrics, or at least the general message of each song.
The crowd was really into the music: countless people were dancing, and there were even three sets of dancers on the stage, at various points in the concert. Issac Delgado often engaged the crowd, trying to get everyone to clap to the beat: I must admit that is always amusing to see an audience try to clap a salsa beat!
Start to finish, the show was outstanding: I am so eager to spend time in Cuba and listen to salsa, timba and mambo in a localized context.
After the show ended, I took a taxi to the Hay Ryad venue to catch the end of the set of the Schäl Sick Brass Band. Formed in Cologne, Germany, the band consists of a female vocalist, a trombonist, a trumpeter, a clarinetist, a tuba player, electric guitarist, drummer and djembe/hand drum player.
To be completely honest, I find it difficult to fully enjoy a concert when I show up two-thirds into the set; yet, the band had such an interesting, full sound, it was easy to get right into the music.
Compared to the other performances I have seen so far at the Mawazine Festival, the Schäl Sick Brass Band had a much “harder” sound. Although they are a “brass band,” there a serious rock influence to their music. Nonetheless, oddly enough, there are strong overtones of Turkish music. So, in sum, they sound like a rock, brass, Turkish band…a strange combination, but it actually sounded great!
It was neat that there was not a bass player, and the tuba player filled in that piece of the rhythm section; unique, indeed. As for the drummer and percussionist, both were most excellent. Moreover, at least in the songs I saw, it seemed that there was a drum solo or two (or three!) in each piece. Of course, for me, I couldn’t ask for much more.
I wish I was able to have seen the Schäl Sick Brass Band concert in its totality; but I am happy that I stayed for the full Issac Delgado show. Once again, this evening was an enjoyable contrast of genres of music.
Below are videos and pictures from each show. It should be easy to distinguish between the two concerts…
The Bouregreg Scene. You can catch a glimpse of the Oudayas in the background.
Issac Delgado himself - yes, he spells his name with two Ss not two As.
Che looks on...
Nothing but the best Cuban rhythms
The crowd chanted, "¡Cuba, sí!"
Salsa without dance is like chips without salsa.
The Schäl Sick Brass Band, from Germany, perform at the Hay Ryad venue