Rockin’ the Fowler

This past weekend, the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies hosted a conference on the work of Clifford Geertz, the famed anthropologist who wrote extensively about Morocco (and Indonesia.) The conference was organized by Susan Slyomovics and Lahouari Addi, and featured conversations between anthropologists from around the world. Unfortunately, I was working on a new piece, so I wasn’t able to attend any of the panels, but I managed to get away on Saturday night to attend the musical performance that took place at the Fowler museum.

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The Aza music ensemble played Tamazight-language songs that fused indigenous Moroccan beats with modern sounds. They used the oud and qraqeb, but also the guitar, tabla, clarinet, and banjo. I don’t speak a word of Tamazight, but the music touched me and their rhythms made me want to get up and dance. I took a photo of them with my phone, but as you can see I was a bit far from the stage. You can listen to some excerpts from their music here. Aza was co-founded by two Moroccan-Americans from Santa Cruz, Fattah Abbou and Mohamed Aoualou, and includes four talented artists from the area as well.

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Afterwards, the municipal orchestra of Sefrou took to the stage, accompanied by two guest artists from the Los Angeles area. The featured vocalist was the amazing Abderrahim Souiri, who performed an array of Andalusian songs; he was joined on stage by the equally amazing Raphael Skouri, who I believe is the cantor of the Baba Sale synagogue. Souiri and Skouri alternated singing verses in Arabic and in Hebrew, and their voices complemented each other beautifully, culminating in a rousing rendition of the late Abdessadek Cheqara‘s “Bent Bladi.” It was nice to have an evening in which so many different components of the Moroccan music scene were present. The lyrics were in Tamazight, Arabic, and Hebrew, and were sung by Arab and Berber, Muslim and Jewish, male and female musicians.

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(Here’s a post-show photo. I’m standing with Raphael Skouri and UCLA’s Nouri Gana.)

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