Category Archives: Married to a Moroccan

Me, Myself, and I

modigliani boyWhen I was growing up, I never looked anything like my father. Everywhere I went, everyone would say, “you look just like your mother”.  To which I – thinking I was clever – would respond, “no, she looks just like me.”

I remember back in sixth grade science class when we were studying genetics and DNA, we were supposed to make a chart showing what features we got from each of our parents. I had my mother’s blond hair and blues eyes, and both of my parents were tall, but I still needed to list something I got just from my father. When I asked my father, a physician, what physical characteristic I had inherited from him – and only him – his scientific response was my maleness. You can only imagine the look on my teacher’s face when I told the entire class of twelve year olds what feature my father had bestowed on me. Of course, I was insightful enough to have qualified my answer as having come from a medical professional.

A few decades later it really didn’t affect me at all when my son was born with a startling resemblance to his mother’s family, save for his cleft chin. He has dark, chocolate eyes, curly hair, and lush lips. I don’t need my child to look like me, and to be honest, he is probably better off looking like his mother. But, no matter how much I observe both his physical characteristics and his gestures, I simply do not see myself in him.

Nevertheless, when I look at myself in the mirror, and I can’t pinpoint exactly what is that I see, I always see him in my reflection, staring back at me.

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Filed under Married to a Moroccan, Parenthood

“How Much Do I Love You”

Parents shouldn’t fool themselves: it’s not that their child is a genius, it’s that all children are brilliant. It’s simply the nature of childhood.

So even though my kid, almost two years old now, may not be exceptional, it sure feels like it.

My wife speaks to our son in Moroccan Arabic, I speak to him in English, and we live in Spain (and he’ll probably go to French school). He is already able to completely distinguish between Arabic and English, and he instantaneously translates conversations between himself, my wife and me. So for example, I will tell him to ask my wife, “are we going outside” and he will immediately replicate what I have said in Arabic. When he asks my wife for something in Arabic and she says no, he’ll turn to me and repeat the question in English. And when he picks up the phone, he says, “Hola, muy bien, muy bien”.

One of the rituals my son and I have established is that every night when I put him to bed, we read three stories and sing a handful of songs. These songs change over time. Right now his favorites are “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer“, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, and “Jingle Bells”. Amazingly just after two weeks of singing Christmas songs, he already knows all of the lyrics and insists that he sings them all by himself.

We’ve already gone through a wide range of song phases that have included variations of “The Wheels on the Bus”, “Old MacDonald”, and the “Farmer in the Dell”, where I am required to change the lyrics to include different vehicle types (firetrucks instead of buses, etc) and include different family members — at his insistence — on the farm. When he was a little younger, I even sang him a host of my favorite “bedtime” tunes from Bob Marley, Billie Holiday, The Beatles, Jim Croce and Cyndi Lauper. Because I could never remember all of the lyrics, I would upload them onto my Kindle which I would then use as a cheat sheet while I sang to him. This didn’t last too long because first, the light on my Kindle became a distraction, and second because he was starting to learn more vocabulary, he wanted songs he could “understand” (ie, ones with trucks and animals).

So once I had to give up my Kindle cheat sheet, the only song that I could remember all of the lyrics to was my favorite Irving Berlin standard, “How Deep is the Ocean (How High is the Sky)“. But, he never much appreciated this song (once again, no wheels going round), so I always used it as the last song, just as he was starting to fade.

But I hadn’t sang “How Deep is the Ocean” in over two months.

Until last night. Out of the blue, he interrupts “Grandma goes to sleep, Grandma goes to sleep, hi-ho the diary-oh, Grandma goes to sleep” to insist that I sing …. “How much do I love you”, as in “How Deep is the Ocean”:

How much do I love you
Let me tell you know lies
How deep is the ocean,
How high is the sky

How many times a day do I think of you
How many roses are sprinkled with dew
How far would I travel to be where you are
How near is the distance from here to a star

And if I ever lost you,
how much would I cry
How deep is the ocean,
How high is the sky

And just now as I was telling him that we’d finished the last song, he once again insisted, “How much do I love you.”

Note my favorite version is the one by Joe Williams.

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Filed under Jazz, Married to a Moroccan, Parenthood

More Moroccan Oud

Following up on my last post on the Moroccan oud, I recently found this video of outdated hairstyles and Hamid Zahir, a Moroccan singer who plays the oud with a more authentic (for lack of a better word) Moroccan style.  It’s fun stuff, even though, I much prefer his song “Ach dak temchi l zin“.

And if you are interested in the oud, here is a video of  Uncle Said (an in-law) playing with some friends in Italy.

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Filed under Jazz, Married to a Moroccan

Le Oud Marocain

Some time last year my mother-in-law gave me a CD of Moroccan oud music with the title “Awtare d’or” on the cover. The CD contains seven tracks:

  1. maquamat
  2. taquassim
  3. nagumate chaâbya
  4. atlassiyate
  5. ahazij
  6. awtar chaâbiya
  7. Mizane

But there is no indication of who the musicians are. It is a shame because this is really fantastic music. What is so nice about this CD is that it combines the traditional Arabic oud with Moroccan drums, making for a great, upbeat sound. I have put together this little video of the first track so I could share it with you. I hope you will enjoy.

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Filed under Jazz, Married to a Moroccan

My Racist Tea Pot

Ever since last New Years Eve when my uncle-in-law, Brahim, prepared his special Moroccan tea, desert style (plenty of sugar, but no mint), I have been hooked. As a matter of fact, I much prefer this to the type of tea, which is actually much easier to prepare, than the more well know one with mint. All you need is gunpowder tea (a type of green tea imported by Moroccans from China), loads of sugar and a good dentist.

Another nice thing about Moroccan tea is that you get to serve it with fanfare from an elegant teapot into colorful glass cups. One of the problems, though, with a Moroccan tea set is that the pot can get too hot pour. Thus, the typical solution is to buy a cloth sleeve to go over the handle which you can readily find in the medina. Beware, this has its own pitfall.

Now one of my basic rules of blogging and tweeting is that I try as best as I can to stick to only criticizing my own country and society (of which I include Spain where I pay my taxes and have lived for more than a decade). Thus, please don’t take what I will say now as a critique but rather as a simply observation:

In Moroccan culture, the archetypical depiction of being served tea is that it is being served by a black (Moroccan) man. I can’t say much about racism or the racial breakdown of the present Moroccan population. Moroccans tend to be Arab, Berber (hailing from one of three different Berber groups), sub-Saharan African, or any mixture of all of these.  My understanding is that black Moroccans’ ancestors would have come to Morocco as slaves and served either the royalty or very wealthy families; though I imagine that many of the black people in Morocco today have roots in more contemporary immigration. Needless to say, slavery was officially banned in Moroccan with the arrival of the French in 1916, though I have no idea when it ended in practical terms.

In any event, black Moroccans were then associated with the Royal Palace where they lived and served. One of the ways this has translated into popular culture is that on television and in upscale restaurants, you’ll always see that the man serving the tea (in ceremonial cap and fez) is black. Not only that, almost every tea pot holder you find — including the one I use — will be fashioned as a black man pouring your tea. In my country, that would be just so wrong.

I love my Moroccan tea, which I limit to weekends; though as an American I do feel a little ashamed of myself each time I pour a glass.

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Filed under Digressions, Married to a Moroccan

Belkhayat Fusion

Last November I was in Morocco and discovered this performance of Abdelhadi Belkhayat playing the traditional Arab oud with a full Arabic orchestra (in the classic Egyptian style). What was interesting was that he was also accompanied by musicians playing purely local instruments in the African, Berber and gnawa tradition. I immediately asked my wife who it was and learned that it was Adelhadi Belkhayat, a famous Moroccan oud player and singer.

In Morocco, you have a variety of different styles of music mirroring the various cultural and religious influences on the country: traditional Arab music (ouds and orchestras a la Egypt), Andaloussi and Gharnati music (arriving from the Muslims and Jews exiled from Spain), Berber music (with banjos), Dakka Marrakchia and Gnawa. This particular video is a perfect example of the fusion of all of them.

Since then, I have picked up some Belkhayat CDs, most of which is more Arabic than purely Moroccan, with one of my favorite songs being Ya Dak al Insan. In general, though, I prefer Hamid Zahir whose music has more examples of the combinations of traditional Moroccan sounds with the Arab oud.

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Filed under Married to a Moroccan

Dakka Marrakchia

No Moroccan wedding is ever complete without a Dakka Marrakchia possé. This group of musicians and showmen play a type of Moroccan music that hails from Marrakech (hence, the name) with African, Berber and Arab roots, and serve several different functions at the wedding. At the beginning of the wedding, they gather at the entrance and welcome the invitees with song and dance. Next, the accompany the bride and groom as they make their first and second entrances, and finally, they serve has entertainment at various points during the wedding playing their music, dancing, improving and engaging in other general showmanship.

The above video features a group as they are just getting warmed up at my sister-in-law’s wedding earlier this month in Rabat. The same group also played at my wedding. Believe it or not, I often replay the part of my own wedding video where they perform. I have even extracted the audio from the video so that I can listen to them on my iPad and stereo.

I was only able to film just a quick portion of them warming up, but they are truly great. I spoke with them briefly (in my broken French and non-existent Moroccan Arabic) to give the “tabarkalah alik” they deserved, and it was nice to see that they remembered me.

I hope you will enjoy!

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Filed under Married to a Moroccan