Last night Tangier vibrated to the sound of seven American women performing music from the world over. Libana, making their inaugural Moroccan tour (Tangier, Tetouan, Rabat), was a rousing success at the 5th annual Tarab Tanger festival. From the very beginning, with a rendition of Yal Harbaan, an Algerian Berber song from the Aures mountains, the audience knew they were in for a special treat.
This all started last year at Tarab Tanger No. 4, when our annual AIMS conference participants attended a Berber music performance. Anthropologist Dr. Jane Goodman of Indiana University, a former member of Libana and co-organizer of the conference, mentioned Libana's longstanding dream of performing in Morocco. A year later, here they were at Tarab Tanger. And the audience was not disappointed.
Thanks to Jane Goodman's double duty as both performer and – in French, Amazigh, and Arabic – presenter of the group's repertoire, the capacity audience got an even better appreciation for the group's mastery of the music of a variety of cultures. Sung in languages as wide-ranging as Arabic and Quechua, the women of Libana have an uncanny ability to put themselves in the culture – and even the very register – of the women whose music they have learned through 35 years of performing across the world.
Close your eyes and you will be listening to enchanting music sung by women of India, of West Africa, of the Sephardic diaspora. Open your eyes and you'll see seven Bostonians at home in the world – and dancing in the costumes of the culture whose music they perform. Their enthusiasm for their art makes the audience move.
No more so than when they started ululating, their you-yous echoed by the Moroccan audience, young and old, and triggering the traditional wedding chant by women in the stands. Talk about winning hearts…
But the finishing touch was all-American: "Woke Up This Morning," a spiritual adapted for the Civil Rights struggle, where waking up "with Jesus on my mind" is replaced by "freedom on my mind." As Libana streamed off the stage to a standing ovation, the audience took up the "Hallelujah" refrain. What an exit!
So, in one evening in Tangier, seven women from Boston helped to spread their joyous vision of links across continents, and the US as a repository of an incredible diversity of cultures. Now that Libana has pioneered American participation in Tarab Tanger, the door is open to other performers from the US.
With the strains of "Woke Up This Morning" in his ears, we know that Tarab Tanger impresario Omar Metioui is already thinking about his dream for next year: an American gospel group. The planning begins…