Portraits of musicians on the Djemaa el Fna, Marrakech, Morocco.

Portraits from a place: Marrakech

Portraits of Marrakech musicians playing on the Djemaa el Fna (main square) of Marrakech.

Many photographers visiting amazing Marrakech, head straight to one of the balcony restaurants looking over the square for that classic postcard photo. The savvy street photographer, however, knows that it’s been don a million times before. And down on the ground you don’t need to head straight for the snake charmers, you just start looking at the faces on the square.

As soon as I saw these musicians pictured above, I knew I wanted to take their portraits. But being a musician myself, I wanted to watch them play and get a sense of them as people.

Well, OK, I did get a little more involved than that. I grew up playing stringed instruments and I hold the dubious distinction of being the only child in my family not to play in an orchestra! Despite my classical music deficiencies, I joined in playing the Amzhad, a single stringed instrument of the Berbers. I figured that if could play violin, a one-stringed instrument with a bow should be easy. It wasn’t, but I managed to make some kind of a bond with the guys, as usually tourists just take their photo and move on.

I quickly popped off a few frames after I handed back the Amzhad. The guy on the right looks strong, but it’s the sense of melancholy and a sadness that I get from the musician on the right that stays with me to this day.

Was he missing home? His wife? His children? Did he not enjoy playing for people who did not understand his music and the music of the Berbers?

Whenever I see his portrait, I still ponder the same questions.



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