The Adventures of a Musician Visiting Casablanca

01/17/2013 05:13 EST | Updated 03/19/2013 05:12 EDT

I am a musician and this curious pre-occupation requires that I travel from village to world village. I get to see things that perhaps others do not. I record them to the best of my ability and share where there is interest. This is a story of my first journey to Morocco, an Islamic-based country and things I found interesting. Remember that these are the observations of a first-timer. I welcome your deeper insights or corrections. Tomorrow I will still be a musician.

Call to prayer I found the call to prayer puzzling in the feelings it created in me. Five times a day, starting low and moving up in pitch, joined by other mosques. Like a siren, wolves howling in the wilder darkness, the keening of women, it made me feel sad and alone. This puzzled me. This Islamic call to prayer is a musical phrase imprinted upon the air for humans, earth and animals to absorb over time. It is such an old, sound found in nature. What does it do to our inner soundscapes? All these things interest me as a musician. I have no answers, just more questions about the sounds of the world.

It seems Morocco identifies more with Europe than Africa because of French invasion and influence; if you don't speak Arabic, French would be the default and then perhaps Spanish at the top of Morocco near Spain; the blood-blending has created it's own look, lighter-skin, bone-structure, hair texture.

There is a big gap between haves and have-nots. Is there anywhere that has less of this? Tell me. Have-nots seemed to be winning in 'flow', in community. I recall being in London to record part of 'When I Was A Boy' with Brian Eno. So desperate did I become for community warmth that I would spend my days down in Portobello rather than becoming depressed in the tight, ungenerous energy fields of the upperclass people of the neighbourhood in which I was staying - money as a curdling agent for the milk of human kindness. I loved how in Morocco, the connection to the greater is woven through conversation in phrases such as 'god willing' (inshallah) at the end of any promise, 'god be with you', and the touching of hand to heart which is universally understood. What do we have in the English world? I guess, 'thanks, lovey' from a London taxi driver can have the same effect on me.

Anywhere there was greenery, there seemed to be grazing. Three cows and one person, eight sheep and one person, two donkeys, look around for the person you've come to expect, there they are, leaning on the tree. Always a human sentinel keeping them off the road, out of danger. I'm not saying it is because of 'love' because I don't know, but there was a harmony to it. I have been drawn into the world of 'herding' with my two border collie friends. I would have liked to have asked the shepherds: How were goats different from sheep and donkeys? How was the best way to have animals respond? What were their favourite animals? What is it like just watching for long periods of time? And finally, my secret question: Did the animals reveal their intelligence easily or did they hide it until the shepherds revealed theirs? But the last question is a song for another time.

It was conveyed to me that everyone, rich or poor, is secure knowing that they will be cared for -- that no one will go without food. It is a given in their psyche. It is for everyone to take care of everyone. Then they went on to say (and I braced for the usual bad news) that this is changing with the influence of consumerism taught by watching the western world. People are LESS secure now because of it and the separation it creates between beings. Individualism = Separation. Should we not tell them it has been a terrible mistake and help them skip the damage-to-the-earth part? What if we created a small tax for ourselves that would go toward educating developing countries about how to westernize in a conscious way.

Bypass the scary part of the story where we we have more landfills than landscapes, earthquakes and tidal waves from emptying the earth's mineral cavities, and people even considering going to a different planet when we haven't cleaned up our horrific mess on this one. The one that is meant to be a sacred place. So I heard. Go straight to hybrid cars, perfect recycling and all the other things the grand intelligence of man has been able to design in the name of taking responsibility and trying to reverse things. There. Did I sidetrack too much? Where were we. Ah yes, my trip to Casablanca.

As is often the case, the interface of a taxi cab is a good place to get (and give) information. There was a desire to educate foreigners that Islamic religion is not represented by the more fanatical/anti-western factions, that the Koran is a book of love and guidance towards a harmonious society. Comments please.

I don't think I've seen any culture that didn't imbibe huge amounts of sugar. Morocco is the same -- sweetened mint tea all day long, pastries everywhere, and with the increasing westernization, every kind of sugared junk food. What can this all mean if sugar is as bad as they say? How would that affect the the overall temperament? I hear the forty days of day-fasting for Ramadam can throw a huge portion of the populace into withdrawal. Cigarettes, caffeine and sugar. Nasty business. As many of us now sadly know, yeast overgrowth is a common affliction from all the antibiotics we enjoy. Cut off their food supply and the yeast cells take up extreme forms of mind control. Who else would say 'PICK UP THAT CHOCOLATE CAKE. YES! I SAID PICK-IT-UP. NOW. PUSH IT INTO YOUR MOUTH WITHOUT GRACE OR DIGNITY. DO-ITTTTTT'). It is not us. Addiction is equal and opposite to integrity, in my experience. Ah, but again that is another song.

I've never been in such a polluted city before. It was explained that there has been a huge increase in credit in the past 10 years so everyone has cars. And therefore debt. The roads of Casablanca are inadequate for this volume of traffic. My lungs were tingling by end of my trip. Lung = Grief in Chinese medicine. Would that mean that the activation of the lung area by inflammation and coughing are also activating things on another level? Easier to release grief? Harder? I wonder about these things.

Lines on the roads seem to be merely 'suggestions', honking seemed normal, constant, comfortable and not as aggressive as a more organized country. Donkeys, bikes and cars worked it out.

When the temperature and rain were such that the men would put up the pointed hoods of their jellabas, it would feel very much like I was in a land of magic people, elves, hobbits. That said lightly, there is, apparently, a tracing of the Celts though the Moorish realms and others more knowledgeable could expand upon the connection in the music and language. Now I am thinking of the disturbing sound of bagpipes starting and the Muslim call the prayer.

You can tell by the drum-roll of pruning, sweeping, cleaning, beautifying. The current king has continued in the royal tradition of building in traditional fashion which has kept the artisan skills alive -- stone-laying, stucco, tiling, woodcarving. It shows and makes for beautiful parts of the cities.

Here is a new development and apparently this law was influenced by the queen. You can still have as many wives as you like. Yeah!! BUT your first wife has to approve in writing.

Far beyond the classroom, a wonderful teacher is waiting. Opening the mind, encouraging curiosity, waking us up to ourselves. No matter where you travel in the world, no matter how dire the conditions, kindness, humility, nobility, and people helping others maintain dignity can always be found. Without desire for reward. Pure and simple. And with the removal of cultural generalizations, there is a pleasurable improvement in view that can remind us of these things: that we are connected by the underground river of human kindness; that separation from our fellow man is a typo.

This is my ode to Joy, brought on by a trip to Casablanca, Morocco.

I welcome any corrections or further insights to this reporter's observations.