It’s always good to have a Plan B - then again, there’s really no point. Better to improvise and let the forces intervene…
After months of preparing logistics and building a great team of musicians and techs, I set off to Tangier, Morocco from Malaga, Spain, along with Juan Soto (bass, sound production) and Manuel Soto (camera). This trip’s mission was to record both the audio and video versions of ‘Just Can’t Let It Go’, a composition I wrote for this project - mostly instrumental, with some sections that would feature vocal improvs by two of my Moroccan band members. The music was challenging to play for the violin and oud, and we didn’t have a rehearsal before the trip, so I was crossing my fingers that the song would come together in the studio I had scouted out to record in.
Yes - the studio. On my previous trip to Tangier I had found a studio that was in the process of being built - basically just a soundproofed room. So, I thought, that’s fine, we’ll bring the recording gear with us, and just rent the room. However, when we got there, the price had suddenly tripled from the previously agreed amount (and I didn’t have time to re-start the bartering game) so I called on my Moroccan bandmates for ideas. Soufiane Maz, a wonderful singer who had helped me connect with some of the musicians, had a friend with a home studio, so we rushed over to his place, and managed to get Hamza (oud), Simo (violin), and Khaled (percussion) all together at once, which in itself was a bit of a miracle. By the time we got set up, we had two hours to record everyone’s parts. In other words, not nearly enough time. Being the producer, it was a rather stressful situation to manage - pushing through, while trying to maintain a relaxed, supportive atmosphere. Fortunately, everyone pulled together with great energy and focus and managed to deliver some beautiful performances.
The next day we had planned to record the video in a gorgeous sala at the Hotel Continental - the historic architecture and Moroccan tiled backdrop was just what I was looking for, so I booked our rooms there for convenience. But again, at the last minute, the price of filming there jumped to a comically astronomical amount of money. So, Plan C. Where to film? Abdou Daghay who so kindly facilitated his recording studio the night before, mentioned he knew of a rooftop location with a great view of the old city. I asked if he thought they’d give us permission. He said, ‘yes of course, I’m the manager!’ So in another mad rush, we hiked our gear up several winding flights of stairs to the rooftop of the Melting Pot Hostal. The staff were so helpful in facilitating our sound and camera necessities, and so there we filmed, but with much less time than we’d anticipated.
I knew this was an ambitious project. Sometimes I get an idea, that turns into a vision, that turns into… a series of decisions: OK, I’m going to go to Morocco to put a band together, compose a piece of music that would be fun to play with a Moroccan ensemble, record the song, film a music video, and make documentary about the process. Sounds straightforward enough, but once you start putting the details together, it turns out to be a lot more complicated than that. The funny thing is, when you have a strong feeling about something, that kind of feeling that comes from a heart place, it can lead to all kinds of unexpected events, that just like super-glue, can piece together complex puzzles in such ways that when looking back, appear rather miraculous.
You could say that the way this project came together, despite all the challenges, perfectly demonstrates my thesis: music is that super-glue. Music unites, music is a problem solver. It’s music that brings people, worlds, and solutions together - it’s a creative, magical thing.
Meanwhile, back in Spain, we’re busy mixing the audio and editing the video, and I’m working on the documentary, which will explore my travels through Morocco over the past 18 years, culminating in this recent musical experience.
Thank you to my great team! I can honestly say, that the coming together of this particular group of humans was divine, and I hope we get the chance to play some shows together… with a bit more time… ojalá.
Meet the players and see how it went down with this chapter's 'making of' video by clicking below.