So you wake up one Sunday morning, calmly inspired – the run on real dusty roads and the kif have helped. You’re in a small apartment outside the bus station in Essaouria on the west coast of Morocco. You’ve been on the road for a week. The sound of seagulls and small children is present. It is Sunday, and the unnatural noise is almost soft. The wind is gentle through the apartment – caressing – senses heightened – the kif works nicely – marinating the day.
The Medina is the name for the old city.
“It’s like the dark…you say dark ages,” she said, because English is not her first language, as we entered under the long dark arch of the Medina wall: the only entry – barricaded during times of war. It is the stuff of legends (not stories). How many young men must have lost their lives in this passage protecting this city and its inhabitants from those who would sack them.
I’m being a little bit dramatic – but it is difficult not to be a little dramatic in a place like this. It is unusual. Its walls are thick, high – giving the archers higher ground. It is on the sea, waves crashing into the bottom of the wall at high tide. Old cannons still point out to sea. Its streets are mysterious, affectedly narrow, and winding – they are full with busker’s buskering, traditionally dressed slitty-eyed Moroccan woman, cats, mothers and hunched over men begging.
The air is clean – a mixture of fish and sea.
“It’s okay English is not your first language,” I said. “It’s actually the middle ages.”
There is new age product – cell phones (and other things), but the Medina maintains its authenticity in this new world. It has that much soul. It has that much history. There are tourists, but it remains unaffected. There is still trade from the old days – magic silver rings and trinkets; coloured carpets; old leather bags; and shoes. There are still horse drawn carts driven by old Moroccan men; faces decorated by a life on a small dusty road. The horse cart drivers and the fruit salesman seem to be the only relics of that age in the way of people – they are the only ones who will work on one road. Men brought up in the early part of the 20th century have a different attitude towards life and an honest days work.
I didn’t know that there was a music festival in town when I arrived. Sometimes you get lucky on the road.
Two acts played in the old town square, flanked by the sea, and a glowing setting sun on the one side, and the heavy walls of the Medina on the others. Lidingo were first – a bunch of drum bashing, hard dancing, angelic singing, French speaking, heavy set (men and women) musicians from the Democratic Republic of Congo: a band I had never heard of. Arrested Development was second. They were all rap and Black Panther solutes. I only recognised Mr Wendle because we had a teacher in my school days that we nicknamed Wendle: because that’s what young boy’s do.
I believed the Congolese more when they called me brother. I am an African you see, a South African.
Arrested Development did play an off version of Billie Jean while the lead singer cried in tribute – it was a good moment – a nice thing to do – the crowd danced to that one. I danced too. Somehow it makes us feel more comfortable to see genius meet its end in that way.