#FRA2014 Day Four: The Song

Casablanca, 22nd February 2014

Internet is still down. We had hoped for a good surprise, but the silent and inscrutable influence of the makhzan continues to linger above. Your hear this word often, loosely translated as "the regime". It describes the vast traditional and hierarchical power structure that extends from the royal palace to every neighborhood in Morocco. Stuck between networked authoritarianism and a liberal representative democracy, this country's daily life is haunted by the inner workings and far-reaching externalities of this shadow government. It overrides the official institutions. Its logic is strange and overwhelming, like a bad prank played over and over again by a fearsome, patient, lonely saboteur.

Still, the Festival of Resistance and Alternatives marched on, into its second day of activities at the USFP's big building in Casablanca. Our workshop went offline and turned into a nice conversation with Jamila Lamnate, from the e-Joussour web radio project, and a diverse group of other workshop participants. We talked about the struggle of local associations to have their right to FM broadcasting legally recognized, the effort of capacity-building being done through independent and citizen media groups, we questioned ourselves about the haphazard ways in which technology spreads and changes civil societies, here and elsewhere. Derb Ghallef is a case in point: Casablanca's sprawling and vibrant electronics street market is one of those places where global informationalism finds the street cred, in a hub of technical invention and business innovation that outshines any European top-down initiative.

A little after 5pm, we say goodbye and exchange calling cards, heading downstairs to join the cheerful crowds. There will be a poetry and slam session in the main hall, the lights are dim.

We record the proceedings. It is an emotional moment, a trio of slammers voicing their poems in loud, assertive, sometimes angry voices, backed by a couple of flamenco-driven acoustic guitars. The audience claps hard, energizing the feedback loop between a group of people who clearly belong to the same movement, the same circles of friends, the same emerging alternative scene. They are mostly young people, lucky enough to have lived through an important political moment in their city, their country. The 20th February movement is clearly a minority in Moroccan society now, but that doesn't take away from its meaning and its validity as an aggregator of the kind of culture not favored by the mainstream, or the makhzan. The last song is a class act: a catchy reggae tune that everyone seems to know by heart, chorus sang in call and response by a room full of believers. Hard not to be impressed.

Tomorrow will be the last day of the Festival.  We'll head back to the Bouletek, where it all began, for an afternoon of concerts and final goodbyes. For now, it's dinner time back at the old part of town.

We sit in silence at a small table, right by the main street. We take it all in.

Read the full coverage: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

The story in photos, here: photo.stress.fm/tagged/FRA/chrono
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