The way through the Pyrenees was the toughest stage so far! An incredibly continuous heavy rain (neither of us had never driven through anything like it – worse than the rainy season in Dakar!) and in some places floods of half a meter of water made Karin and Sousou exhausted of concentrating so much on keeping the car on the road. We finally arrived in Barcelona more than one hour after what it would have been without the rain and 60 kilometers per hour on the highways!
After Marseille we had high expectations on Barcelona where Sousou and Maher had also spent holidays four and a half years ago. But it was not so easy to play music spontaneously in Barcelona. The situation for street musicians seems to have radically changed over the last four or five years. This was confirmed by several musicians we bumped into. As a French/Spanish guitar player said “Barcelona has been turned into a vitrine for the tourists”. But aren’t street musicians part of the charm of a city, particularly for tourists?
We started looking for a place to play in the morning and continued to do so for several hours but were everywhere told that the police could even take your instrument and make you pay a fine. We didn’t want to risk so much for sharing our music so we just fled into a Senegalese restaurant to have lunch. Fortunately we had then set up a meeting with a Malian musician living in Barcelona. He brought us to his friend Youssouf’s shop “Farafina” for a jam session. While introducing us to Youssouf one of the most curious conversations took place between him and Maher:
Youssouf: So what kind of music do you play?
Maher: Well, kora and guitar with different influences
Y: Ah, abit like Maher Cissoko then?
M: Yes… or wait a minute, I AM Maher Cissoko
Y: Are you that Maher Cissoko?? The one with the album that everyone listens to?
M: Well, I don’t know, at least me and Sousou we have made two albums.
Y: I’ll make you listen to the one of Maher Cissoko that I have. I listen to it all the time and I know all the songs!
As soon as the first sounds of the album “Adouna” were heard, everyone started laughing and Youssouf was amazed to have Sousou and Maher in his shop. He said that he had sold an incredible amount of the disc “Adouna” and that some people even know his shop through Maher and Sousou’s album.
Youssouf did have a very nice shop with among other things some miniatures of the car rapides (to be seen on Sousou and Maher’s album Stockholm-Dakar). And one of Maher’s very good friends that we had been trying to contact even got married there. He later passed by and joined the jam session and was later interviewed. To him, it is not possible being a jali in Europe; here you are only seen as an artist. And world music was to him everything positive there is about opening up to new musical influences and publics.
While moving back to the hotel, Sousou and Karin went up to the Ramblas to make some interviews with the people passing by on their views on pluralist societies. A good place for spontaneous meetings. We were for example told that the Spanish people’s lacking knowledge in English is a problem for their capacity of being open to people from other countries. Alot of the interviewees seemed to not consider the fact that people of different origins are to be found even within the Spanish society.
It was just a pity that we arrived too late and exhausted to meet up with the Chilean musician we had been in contact with. But a lot of next times are to come!