Approaching his mid-60s, Australia’s Glenn A. Baker has boundless energy and seemingly eternal youth. An award-winning music journalist, travel writer, broadcaster, rock-music specialist, celebrity speaker, radio personality and cultural explorer, his thirst for adventure and knowledge goes unabated and in 2016 he has his sights set on the North African kingdom of Morocco in conjunction with By Prior Arrangement.
His ‘Moroccan Musical Odyssey’, from 7 to 20 May 2016, combines his fascination with popular music icons such as Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin with his passion to unearth remote locales, civilisations and musical artefacts. The mysticism, music and magic of Morocco that lured these rock-giants and cultural pioneers into its twisted medinas and remote mountain villages during the 1960s is still a tangible force in the 21st century. Glenn A. Baker intends to tap into this ancient, non-Anglophone, non-commercial musical root system.
In May 2016 Glenn A. Baker will head up a two-week musical and cultural voyage that takes in the imperial cities of Rabat, Fes and Marrakech, as well as heading out to the ’60s coastal hippy haven of Essaouira, trekking to a mud-built village in the High Atlas Mountains and sleeping in a luxurious desert retreat. The tour kicks off with a 4-day immersion in the internationally renowned Fes Festival of World Sacred Music. A fitting starting point given the turbulent times we are in and given that the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music was created in 1994 in the wake of the first Gulf War. The inaugural festival featured a symbolic opening concert – a Jewish guitarist accompanying a Palestinian singer – as a way to present an all-embracing and tolerant face of Islam. And so this inclusive non-sectarian artistic programming has continued with gospel choirs, qawwali ensembles, Sufi brotherhoods, European choral masters, shaman drummers and so on, rubbing shoulders in spectacular settings. The festival has also attracted mainstream acts such as Patti Smith, Bjork and Buddy Guy over recent years. The line-up for 2016 will not be known till March 2016, but guarantees the crème de la crème.
Beyond the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, Glenn A. Baker acts as musical tour guide and charismatic host for some close-up, intimate encounters with some of Morocco’s indigenous, traditional, tribal and spiritual music forms. These will include a private gathering of one of Essaouira’s gnawa brotherhoods which will take place in a riad courtyard or inside a local religious centre called a zaouia; a night-time storytelling session and Berber music reminiscent of great bands such as Nass el Ghiwane, in Marrakech’s UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Place Jemaa el Fna; in the High Atlas Mountains, villagers will gather to perform traditional celebratory dance usually reserved for weddings and religious festivals; a troupe of robed Issawa Sufi musicians with cedar-wood pipes, goat-skin drums and trumpets will meet Glenn and his fellow travellers at a mountain top village overlooking Morocco’s holiest and oldest Islamic shrine, Moulay Idriss.