It’s 1974 and the great Moussem is happening in Meknes a week after the actual Mawlid celebrations have taken place throughout Morocco. It is in the zawiyya and now the final resting place of Muhammad ibn Al Habib, may Allah be pleased with him. He had passed away two years previously on his way to Haj in what was possibly his 102nd year. Many of his followers – his fuqara – had arrived from all over Morocco, desert dwellers dressed in white and city dwellers in fine jellabas and silhams. Also a large contingent of Algerians had arrived in an old grey Citroen van and other cars traveling also from the desert in the south of Algeria and from cities in the north like Oran and Boufariq. Ibn al Habib had died in Bleda in western Algeria near the coast, but was brought back to Meknes to be buried which was his wish I believe. A large contingent of new fuqara had also arrived from England. A mixture of English, Americans, Iranian as well as other nationalities. All immersed in this great gathering.
Uploaded now to this blog is a recording I made of this Moussem which I made on a not very professional cassette player. It’s not a great recording and the tape congeals in places but it’s listenable and more important it is unique – you won’t hear this anywhere else. This is a Morocco which has largely disappeared now although these celebrations continue in Morocco to this day. Nowadays it is all smaller and with the unavoidable blasting PA system, set to extreme reverb! This was the last time a contingent was to arrive from Algeria as the border was closed the following year because of a war in the Western Desert. Some of the singing on this recording is uniquely Algerian, tunes and qasidas only sung in Algeria. But seamlessly included. Also the instantly recognisable voice of Si Fudul Al Huwari can be heard conducting the Mawlid itself. Occasionally nearer the microphone is the bull-like voice of Moulay Qudur from Taza who was singing along and who encouraged me to sing so much that I lost my voice. This is only an hour or so of the event which went on all day interspersed with the prayers and large meals of couscous set out on low tables. It was at one of these tables that two old faqirs said to us that we will eat this meal again one day. I can only hope.
I’ve add the recordings here but I will add them to my audio files page on the home page of this blog.