“All this luminous colour… seems… that it enters the eye like a glass of wine running into your gullet and it makes you drunk straight away“. – Cezanne about Tangier
When I lived in Spain, we sometimes talked about nipping down to Malaga or Gibraltar and then heading out to Africa. A six hour ferry ride to Tangier makes it more than possible to travel with a backpack and to arrive on another continent by daylight. Having barely left Europe in my life, the excitement gained from even thinking about such adventure was palpable.
You mention Tangier to some and they might think of the danger; the scooters that can zip past the unsuspecting tourist and steal their unprotected possessions. And I’m not saying that such crime (and worse) doesn’t exist. But, I’m drawn to the city with its rich cultural history. This is the city in which William Burroughs wrote and imagined ‘The Naked Lunch’. Surely, the hippie influence from years gone by, the influence of the visits from Brian Jones and the other Rolling Stones, can’t have been completely stamped out with the recent regeneration of the beachfront and the creation of new, modern bars and clubs?
It’s not clear if Skymachine have ever been to Tangier either. The band from New Zealand are suitably influenced by its reputation though to release a single in honour of the place. For Skymachine, Tangier is simply representative of a feeling. “I have always loved the idea of just packing a suitcase and jumping on a plane with a one-way ticket.“, says Brydon, the head honcho from the outfit. “If you met someone you wanted to spend the rest of your life with, could you leave everything behind to be with them? Tangier is that feeling.”
Music-wise, this is a track that will make lovers of 80’s pop romanticism squeal with delight. It’s got the glamour, the shiny suits and the synth beats in abundance. There’s an overwhelming sense of longing within this pop nostalgia; radiating in romance, we’re all encouraged to experience our own Tangier moment as we throw caution to the wind and escape to a new continent.
That’s surely what we all need right now.
It’s always good to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and to embrace new things. As the years advance, it’s one way to stop yourself getting staid or stuck in your ways. There’s so much to discover in this wonderful world and precious little time to find out about it all. Why settle with what you know when around the corner there might be something that can give you even more joy and happiness – as long as you go into it with eyes wide open?
That is, of course, so true when listening to music. Our tastes are formed young and we keep returning to those tracks of our youth (and songs that sound like them) because of their familiarity. They offer us comfort and it’s easy to see why they might provide our go-to moments.
Sometimes, I like to shake up my listening. I’ll deliberately find tracks from genres that I know next to nothing about and dig into what I find. To a degree, this is how I stumbled upon ‘Batwanes Beek’ by Rime Salmi. I’m very glad I did. A cover of an ‘Arabic classic’ by Warda, Rime has turned the tune into her very own Afro-pop anthem.
In my ignorance, I know very little about ‘Arabic classics’ or Warda who first released this song. But the internet is such a rich encyclopaedia and Wikipedia such an extensive resource that things don’t stay mysteries for long.
Warda, the Algerian Rose, was born in Paris to a Lebanese mother and an Algerian father. Her father owned a nightclub and encouraged her to sing patriotic Algerian songs from a young age. A ten year break from singing (her first husband forbade her to) was broken in 1972 when she sang to commemorate Algeria’s independence. After divorcing her grumpy husband, she married again and her career blossomed. She cooked with wine and became something of a superstar commanding a state funeral when she passed away in 2012 aged 73. Warda sounds like she lived a full life of pushing out of her comfort zone.
Rime Salmi was born in Morocco but raised in Canada. For Rime, it’s clearly very important to both embrace the culture she comes from as well as the one she has grown up in. What we get in this version of ‘Batwanes Beek’ is a vibrant explosion of happy sound. It’s hard not to smile when listening to the spirited joy on offer here – and we all need to smile more now than ever.
And then there is the video that features Rime and three well-known dancers from Montreal’s LGBTQ scene proudly using the city as an urban catwalk. Rime sums it up better than I ever could when she says that “this video is a scream. This video is a statement. This video is a manifesto. Arab LGBTQ+ people exist, love and love one another… and it’s something to celebrate.”
Happy hump day – keep being curious.