Just two weeks ago I returned from Morocco, feeling enlightened and refreshed. I traveled there with the pow wow drum group that I sing with, Red Tail Spirit Singers, to take part in a cross-cultural sharing program and the Taragalte Festival Under The Stars, organized by Nathalie Levesque with Marchande d’indees interculturelles inc. The trip was a powerful experience that will stay with me a long time, so obviously I had to blog about it.
Our group of 4 guys arrived in Casablanca on October 20th. We didn’t head straight for our desert location but travelled little by little for two days, slowly taking in our new surroundings along the way. The first night we were in Marrakech, we explored a huge outdoor market, Place Jemaa el Fna. As a musician, I was taken aback and inspired. Street performers and musician filled the market, creating a fun and creative atmosphere as people jammed, danced, and breathed in the night. It was like nothing I had ever seen before, and it was only the beginning of what was about to come.
The following day we continued our journey, leaving the city. As we traveled through the Atlas Mountains, 3,000 meters in elevation, I couldn’t help but admire the magnificence of the scenery. The beauty of Morocco is undeniable and there is no shortage of interesting happenstances along the way. We stopped on the road where we bought beautiful precious stones from a man selling the unique gifts for 12$CDN. We made a pit stop to take some photos of the view, and we sang a round dance song in the middle of the Mountains- our way to show gratitude to the beautiful valley.
One day on the road, we made a pit stop for dinner in a terrific high-class hotel. It was here that I saw my first Chakana in Morocco. No one can tell me it’s different from the Chakana in Bolivia that inspires our logo. It was identical. We were in Indigenous territory, where the North African Indigenous people are called Imazighen- meaning noble man. The Indigenous symbol reminded me that we are all linked as peoples, no matter where we are from, and in Morocco the symbol was everywhere.
We arrived in our desert location in good time, settling into our large tent which we would call home for the rest of the trip.
Part of the project we were participating in was a music residency. At first it was difficult because of the language barrier but we managed to find people to help us communicate with our Moroccan counterparts. By the second day we had two strong songs to work with, which we had developed together. The sound we created with the Indigenous people there was a thing of beauty.
When the music festival began, the energy in our camp started to change. The air was filled with excitement as people began to network and catch up with one another. During the meals, the arrangement for eating made it so that we all sat with people we didn’t know. This forced us to communicate with one another and get to know each other. There was no cell phone or wifi to distract from our human experience as we made new connections with other festival goers and performers.
The day the festival began, I went for a walk alone and played some songs on my Andean flutes as I explored my new, sandy setting. I felt free and played my music full blast, something you can’t do in the city. The feeling of being in the desert can be translated into this one sentence that comes from the nomad people: “Water washes your body. The desert washes your soul.” The beauty and the quiet of the Sahara is something I felt inside of me, and I am trying to hold onto it as I return to my urban life.
Throughout the trip, I should add, that my diet was changed significantly. Thinking holistically, this was something that impacted my clarity of mind, my energy, and my schedule. We ate very good beef Tagine often. There was fresh bread available everyday. Tea was the drink of choice, and my body learned to live without processed sugar. One night after having dinner at a restaurant in Ouarzazate, I asked for dessert. Shortly after, I was brought oranges to satisfy my request. I laughed so hard. I was surprised and humbled by the healthy nature of the Moroccan diet, far different from the cakes that I consume in Montreal. I could write a whole blog about the delicious and healthy diet I experienced on my trip, but I’ll leave that for another time.
All in all, the trip was a success, both personally and professionally. Our performances were well received, and I made some deep new friendships. I was able to perform my solo music as well, which was amazing. I was touched by the incredible hospitality of the Moroccan people and the beauty of their way of life. Being home, it feels like Morocco exist in another world but as I reflect back to nights spent in the dunes of the desert, admiring the constellations, I know Morocco will stay with me for a long time.
A special thank you to Nathalie Levesque for putting together this project and making it possible for Red Tail Spirit Singers to take part. I know that she faced many nay-sayers in the creation of the project, but the result was a victory.
Check out an article recently posted about our participation in the festival, Click here.