Drumming Bollywood in Kenitra

In my time here I have befriended some real cool people from the Old Medina. One might describe the Old Medina as equivalent to the lower/working class section of Rabat. I notice there are a lots of youth on the streets… boys, my age and younger, taking up sandwich shops, selling dope, pirated DVDs, and toys made in China. Most all of them want to get out of the Medina, and leave Morocco altogether. I ask about the possibility of getting better work here by getting a better degree. Yet such a question is met with a laugh being that those youth already with degrees cannot find jobs in Morocco, so, what’s the point? Some of the boys hang out near Café Balima in order to seduce women from Spain and France and America with the hopes of getting a good lay or at least getting a free meal and train ride to Fez or Marrakech to keep the lonely tourists company.

One of my friends from the Old Medina is currently unemployed and like most of the youth here, he is not sure what to do. ‘Its pretty boring here,’ here he tells me. And I cant but think that yes, for many of the youth in the Old Medina, they are bored, and have shit to do. But within this place there is also amazing talent and ambition, but such potential remains handicap because many of the kids just don’t know where to go or whom to talk to get going. Many don’t feel motivated being that the education system here is, according to the people, ineffective and outdated and poorly managed. I invite my friend from the Medina to join me for a drum workshop with the street children at the Association Dar Lekbira, where I have been started my work and developed good relationships with the kids. He is a musician. Why not incorporate the talents of local Moroccans from the Medina and show them other avenues where they can not only get out of a cycle of boredom but also help their own. All I’d have to is pay for his train ride.

The kids were super excited to see the big drum carried by my friend. I had all the children sit in a circle and the big drum was in the center. I played some simple beats on a smaller drum to get warmed up. The kids, on their own initiative, accompanied me with syncopated clapping. They are born with rhythm. I didn’t quite know what I was doing but I knew I wanted to get the kids more confident in trying new things and not being afraid to explore new areas. I also hoped that may be a few of the kids would get turned on to playing music and develop better concentration being that things at the center can be quite chaotic and all over the place. I had each of the kids sit on the big drum and play whatever beat came to mind, whatever they felt. Most were just happy to do something new and physical and were laughing. Some were shy but developed more confidence the more we played. A couple of children showed some amazing talent in playing. While one child played the big drum, I played the small drum, and the others around us clapped a rhythm in tandem with what the drums were playing. One girl was afraid to play and she began to cry and ran away. I don’t know why. But an hour later I took her hand and had her give the drums a few good taps much to her delight.

While for some of the kids it was just a goofy experience that made the laugh, (which I can live with as long as they smile) some exhibited a focus and concentration I never seen in them in my last 2 months here. A little girl, Hannah requested I write her a letter in English in her journal, despite the fact she doesn’t speak or read English. As I was writing the letter for her, some of the boys took the drums and began playing loud and brilliantly in the Lobby and the staff began to sing. It was just dope to see that. They kept pulling me back to show them how to play an Indian beat as heard in many Bollywood movies. Beat by beat I showed them and an hour later, two of the boys were off and running in Bollywoodland. One boy, who is suffering from Blood Cancer, showed a particular interest in playing and he hit the drum with force and precision. Usually he runs away when we do other workshops but today he was clam, focused, and happy to play. The drums were echoing in the Center and clapping would make one feel as if they were walking into a kicking wedding party. It was by no means a formal drum workshop, but the children had fun and they were laughing. That’s all I could ever care about. We’ll see where such workshops go.

My friend from the Old Medina had sat down with the Director, and they got to generating some ideas on how the Center could self sufficiently generate income by fixing bikes. It was cool to see my friend excited and inspired to help the Center and have such great ideas. He felt motivated being that he met someone who liked hearing his ideas. All it took was a train to Kenitra and well worth the 60 Dirham.

But I remain worried for the kids. Outside these walls the streets remain waiting for the kids to grow, as they were. The streets remain infested with poverty, drugs, and prostitution. What is the long term plan, the long term goal. Gives me a headache. I pray for them.

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4 thoughts on “Drumming Bollywood in Kenitra

  1. Very cool. They are responding so well the rhythm and they are entranced by it. This is a good example of how music can be therapeutic- the little girl who started crying was probably reminded of a previous trauma but overcame her fears and approached the instrument finally. Some of those kids will never forget the first time they banged on a drum, made or even heard music. It’s a gift

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