“Anta Arrajul, One Man Band”
We stopped for lunch on the way back to Ifrane from Merzougha. Everyone was wasted from the intense desert heat and Azeb and Younnes’ brutal-yet-rewarding schedule. On the way in, a wiry older man with limited dentals greeted me heartily. Later, we sat down to eat Moroccan salad, trout, and a fruit salad for dessert. Before we received our meals, this same man sat down and began to play a raw instrument that was one part guitar, one part drum, and one part cymbals.
He began playing a blues-like riff and entranced the entire dining area. Some of us began nodding our heads as he kept the beat and twirled a ribbon about his red fez. Apparently his family was originally from the Sudan, but he was born in Morocco. As he continued to play, folks gathered around him. A woman sat down and another person took her photo. As she got up, he waved me over. I sat down next to him and he began to sing a song of welcome. (See Jelani’s video.) He sang in an earthy voice that filled the room. Mahraban! More people came into the area from other dining rooms. He never missed a beat, making eye contact, smiling, breaking contact and continuing to play his song.
He gestured a sincere thank you and goodbye (literally, ‘I surrender to you’, according to Younnes) as we departed reluctantly. We are already several kilometers away and his voice is still haunting my thoughts. I will not forget this gentleman for many moons. Thank you, One Man Band. You Are The Man.