Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Last weekend, I attended the Tanjazz Festival in Tangier (often spelt Tanger or Tangiers). As I did not partake in the full festival – it begun on Wednesday and I arrived on Friday – I am not asserting the Tanjazz was a complete bust; but, from my experiences, it simply was pretty mediocre.

Indeed, Tangier is a wonderful town for a festival: it is a beautiful setting for anything, for that matter. Located on the northern most of Morocco, the narrow Gibraltar Straight is the only thing that separates Tangier from Spain. Because of the proximity to Europe, the audience at Tanjazz is very “jet-setter,” if you will – a very business-like crowd, at times.

Strictly in terms of the music, it was a somewhat disappointing experience. I had heard so much about Tanjazz– particularly the late night jam sessions – that I had very high expectations for the quality of music at the festival.

The “jam session” on Friday night at the Palais de Institutions Italiennes featured some pretty remedial musicians. Perhaps I am bitter, as this “jazz jam session” did not even feature a live rhythm section: no drums or bass, just a keyboardist to fill those roles! An obvious absence of the spirit of jazz music…

But don’t worry, the music on Saturday was terrific, even if the organization of the program was not. Just after eight o’clock on Saturday night, I arrived at the Scene Veolia for a performance by Mokhat Samba, a Moroccan-Senegalese drummer. Unfortunately, due to a last-minute scheduling change, the music started about 75 minutes late: even though this was a free concert, the crowd, rightfully so, was not too pleased with the disorganization of the festival organizers.

When Mokhat Samba finally did take the stage, everyone quickly forgot about the long wait and got right into the music. As I have written so many times before, I find nothing more enjoyable than watching a “drummer’s band.” It was all too evident that Mokhat was the principal song composer: his drum kit stood at the front, center of the stage, and during each number, he provided the band with much more than just the backbeat.

In terms of raw talent, Mokhat Samba has to be one of the better drummers I have seen all year: some people were just born to play drums and he definitely falls into that category.
Sadly, because the show started so late, I was unable to stay to see it in its entirety, as I had tickets to another performance, an eight-piece jazz band from Belgium, called Jazz Me Do.

As you can deduce from their name, Jazz Me Do reinterprets songs originally written by The Beatles. While the idea behind Jazz Me Do is quite kitschy, their execution was most excellent. The compositions of each song were entirely re-written, while still staying true to the original version. Focusing on the early numbers from The Beatles catalogue, Jazz Me Do played a fluid and enjoyable set. The jazzification (okay, that’s not a word) of classics like, “Eleanor Rigby,” “Drive My Car,” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” was an interesting new take on those timeless Lennon/McCartney songs. The most memorable number was, “Girl” – the band did a very clever reinterpretation of this John Lennon track from the Rubber Soul record. I don’t doubt that the Fab Four themselves would approve of this musical venture.

The jam session on Saturday night was pretty good: it certainly was better than the night before, as there was a live rhythm section this time!

After the Mawazine Festival, almost any music festival feels rather weak in comparison – I will readily admit my immediate partiality. I definitely enjoyed my time in Tangier; but, truth be told, it was not one of the better music events I have seen here in Morocco. I have no regrets about going, and would even recommend attending the Tanjazz Festival in the future, if as an excuse to see the town of Tangier.

Just under the clouds sits Spain.

An empty stage...

...makes for an angry crowd.


Jazz Me Do

The gardens of the Italian Palace

Saturday night jam session - this time with a rhythm section.

Amine and I at the (former) end of world.

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