Tuesday, May 18, 2010
The Heart of a Stranger
What amazed me most about being in Morocco were the times when we met people who just captured my heart. One extraordinarily hot day, we stopped at a restaurant hear the desert. Standing at the entrance was a Gnaoua man. He stood majestically. When he flashed his toothless smile, he lit up the world. This man seemed familiar, like he could have been an relative or family friend that I remember from my days as a boy in Georgia. As we ate, I heard amazing music and looked to see that the light filled man was responsible. Gnaoua music pulls from melodies and rhythms from the sub-Saharan countries, mixed with the indigenous music of Morocco and Arabic. The fusion of sounds grabs me. Not only was this man a master at mixing the sounds, he also mixed the things he could do at one time. He strummed the African banjo like stringed instrument called a hajhuj, while at the same time, he rattled the little cymbals that were attached to the neck of his instrument. He sang melodies that reminded me of something familiar. Maybe because the melodic progressions can be heard in American Blues. What impressed me the most was when he started spinning the tassel on his fez studded with cowry shells.
I made eye contact with the singer and soon we had a smiling session between us. I went over and made my offering to him. I tried to spin the tassel but just couldn't get the rhythm. He kept saying, "Sudan, Sudan," and I kept responding, "no." I did not know if he was asking me if I was from Sudan or if he was telling me that he was from Sudan. After we left, I learned that he was trying to me me we were related, that he had come from a place from the South. When we finally left, my new found relative bowed his head and did a double gesture with his hands. Next to his heart, he placed his hands on top of each other and then flipped them. Youness told me that he was honoring me by saying that he submitted his heart to me. How cool was that! How cool would it be if we always saw some kind of light in the eyes of people we met and we submitted our hearts to the hearts of strangers. That day, I felt, maybe for only a short time, that I had passed through the limitations of time and space and hitch to the heart of a stranger.