Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Moroccan Life

So I have conspicuously not been blogging lately, and it probably has something to do with the fact that life here is so great. I also recently realized that I've never explained what I was doing in Morocco in the first place, so I figured it would be a good time for me to explain a) why life is great, and b, closely correlated to a) what I'm doing here.

CLS (Critical Language Scholarship) is a government scholarship (which means that everything is completely paid for) to do an intensive study of the Arabic language for two months. We have (roughly) five hours of class a day, with a heavy emphasis on fusha, the written, formal Arabic in media. This means that I do a lot of this:

But fortunately, the government (or at least my site director) is big on us using our language in more practical situations and learning about the culture and country through personal experience. This means that we have lots of activities after class hours that get us out in Tangier and Morocco as a whole, which means that I spend a lot more time doing stuff like this:

Bou Inania Madrassah in Meknes

Tangier, Kasbah Museum

And going to places like this:

Rabat, capital of Morocco

Bou Inania Madrassah in Fes

Aqshour, near Chefchaouen


And eating food like this, since we happen to be in Morocco during Ramadan, the most holy month in all of Islam:

So yeah, that's why I haven't really been blogging too much. The experience has been great so far, and (I hope that) my Arabic has been improving a lot. More to come.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Holy hafla, batman!

So I've been working on this blog post for about a week, and trying to upload all these videos has been a massive headache, especially since I don't have much time to actually work on stuff like this. I was going to talk about CLS, the fun were having, and all that blah, but it's just going to be too long for one post. I'll update in a day or two and tell you how we have maids who clean for us, a cafeteria with free food, and a weekly stipend to boot.

For some reason, my first week in Morocco led me to a lot of musical activities. It was like one party (hafla, in Arabic) after another, and it was awesome. The video quality of these videos isn't super high, but the sound came through alright. So, sit back and enjoy some authentic Arab music.
So on Monday night (June 25), I went with Monica, Mari, and Youssef on a photo scavenger hunt of the city. We ran into this legit little club next to the Kasbah Museum with some old guys who graciously obliged us with some lovely Moroccan music (at the price of 10 dirham- about $1- as we found out as we were leaving). It picks up around 2:30 if you start getting bored.

On Wednesday, we went to the practice of Oud al-Ramel (literally, the "Sand Guitar"- sick name, right), which is the name of Houdaifa's family's band. They are awesome- super smart, super talented musically, and the nicest people ever. We had tajiin, a traditional Moroccan dish that was more less really tasty meatballs, at their house afterwards and discussed politics and Adele (with the little sister). Here's a clip from Oud al-Ramel:

So Friday night, Monica, Mohammed Ali (not the boxed, but he's a pretty big dude anyways), and I went to the second night of the Maharajan, in the Kasbah Museum. Check out the the Roman/Arab style architecture. The first group we saw was from southern Morocco and played a style of music called Malhun- it's, um, kinda, slow. It talks about a woman named Ghariita, or something like that. I didn't understand a word of it, but the guy ahead of me was getting a real kick out of it:

This next guy was just too legit to quit. We moved to an outdoor theater, were we cooled off a bit thanks to the breeze coming from the Mediterranean. Hailing from Pakistan, he jazzed on a double-reeded flute that played similar to a bagpipe: one reed made a constant note and the other whistled and whined as he used inhuman rapidity to run his fingers along the reed. Oh, and the drums are pretty cool, too.

The group below, the Hmadcha Brotherhood, is interesting from mainly a cultural perspective- the musical aspect is dull and repetitive to say the least. Apparently they're some kind of religious association that dates back to the early days of Islam and plans/does celebrations on important Islamic religious days. One of the most entertaining parts was the old guy (who you can't really see in the video) who couldn't keep rhythm with the others and who kept on yawning during the concert.

So if you don't listen to any other of these groups, listen to this one. Inouraz combines traditional Amazigh (Berber) music, complete with the gambri (a Amazigh version of the guitar), rubab (similar to the Easter rubaba, which is more or less a violin), something else from Iran, and one of the craziest drum sets I've ever seen (gourds, triangles, tublas, hands, you name it), and jazz music. I liked it so much I bought their cd. 

Finally, to round things off, we had a little action from across the straits, from good ole madre Espana in the form of flamenco dancing. Aside from the lithe and frenzied dancer, the guitarist was simply amazing. I could only dream of playing an instrument with that much versatility. The singers had a passionate and slightly annoying throaty sort of voice, but it really only made it that much better. 

Finally, the grand daddy of them all was Sunday night, the night of popular Moroccan/Arab music brought to you by Oud al-Ramel. The group is led by Rasheed Tsouli, the father of Houdaifa, one of our speaking partners. A violinist, he leads a chorus of 15-20 college students hand-picked for their abilities, a couple ouds, a guitar, a bass, several drummers, a couple other violins, a couple cellos, a keyboard, and a saxophone. Singing in this clip is his daughter Soukina, who does a duet with a guy from the group.