Page 10 Spring 1985
On the road making friends of strangers
- by Danny Avrutick
- by Danny Avrutick
Morrocco enjoys a long tradition of street performing. Snake
charmers, story tellers, musicians, comedians, acrobats, herbal
medicine hawkers, preachers and teachers of things like science and
dentistry all ply their trades for large crowds in the dusty lots
and squares by the sooks (markets).
or in groups, Moroccan street entertainers work extremely hard and
long in the hot sun and usually for a pittance. They endlessly sing,
dance, talk and run through clown skits. They don't just gather a
crowd, entertain them, pass the hat and disperse them. Rather, the
crowd gathers and stays put almost indefinitely. The performer
periodically circulates to shake down the people for contributions
with pleas, rhetoric and references to Allah. There is excitement
over large coins and threats to pack it in when the pickings are
of the street performers don't seem to do much; to endlessly build up
without ever delivering any real display of skill. Magicians
particularly seem to hardIy ever even gesture to pick up their rusty
Chinese rings and tattered boxes. But people stay put on and on.
Performers often break into prayers, cupping their hands or raising
the right hand and the audience
follows every step of the way.
can't claim to understand the subtleties of the situation. All
requests for audience
response and participation are met with
immediate enthusiastic cooperation. I once
held up five fingers during a street performance (meaning that
I was about to juggle five bean bags) and immediately five
young volunteers sprung to my side.
supported myself as a street performing juggler and musician off and
on for 13 years in the U.S. and Europe, I wanted to street perform in
Morocco to complete my experience there.
spent my first seven weeks in the country watching other performers,
studying the dialect, and practicing juggling on the beach and hotel
roofs. I occasionally
played my plastic fife with the local musicians and did bits of
juggling for people
on observations of the other buskers, I wrote and practiced a speech
in Arabic. I simply told about how I'm from
Washington, D.C., and been traveling for many years in learning
about different cultures and lives and sharing my art. Also I
translated (with native help) some of the standard juggler jokes and
gave special attention to the money pitch, pleading in the local
Arabic style. "Look at how hard I've worked, and the
sun is hot, and see how tired I am, and these things took many years of
practice, and though you think I'm a rich American I
assure you I'm just a poor simple man... and I know you are poor
people, but if only
you could each give me a tiny coin, however small... Allah's blessings
will be upon you..."
"Look at how hard I've worked, and the sun is hot, and see how tired I am, and these things took many years of practice, and though you think I'm a rich American I assure you I'm just a poor simple man... and I know you are poor people, but if only you could each give me a tiny coin, however small... Allah's blessings will be upon you..."
Avrutik - Big crowds, working wages