"Bluegrass Maghribi" is the name of a pickup band of Americans and Moroccans, brought together by the cultural diplomats at the American Embassy in Rabat, and sponsored here by the American Language Center.
Tangier was the first stop on their four-city tour of Morocco, and the timing was great. Though there was a discreet American presence at the decidedly highbrow Salon du Livre, it was nice to counterbalance the books with some down home bluegrass.
The crowd – mostly young people who'd gathered at the Place 9 Avril or Grand Socco square – got into the mix very readily, and appreciated the fine instrumentals and traditional songs from Virginians James Leva and Danny Knicely.
But it was the Moroccan musicians, led by Abdelilah El Miry and joined by some Tangier-based Arabo-Andalusian musicians, who got the crowd moving. El Miry, whose repertoire includes Berber (Amazigh) and more African-flavored Gnaoua, can handle anything with strings, including an Appalachian fiddle.
The free concert was a reminder of what a little investment in culture can do on the good will front. Get their feet tappin' and their hearts and minds will follow. Our musical diplomats even addressed the audience in French.
Another Tangier-based American friend just passed me a link to the site of Angelo Spencer, his friend who performed earlier this year on the Grand Socco. Click here to listen to his just-released "Tanger, Tanger."
Bravo aleekum, Angelo, James, and Danny.