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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 August, 2004, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Wailers' concert tour hits Morocco
By Sylvia Smith
BBC News

Legendary reggae band The Wailers, formerly fronted by the late Bob Marley, are playing at his year's annual Gnawa festival in Morocco's coastal town of Essaouira.

They played a string of hits, including tracks from 1977's Exodus, voted by Time magazine as the album of the century.

Family Man
Family Man was originally the Wailers' bass player
However the Wailers of the 21st century are fronted by Aston Family Man Barrett, the band's bass player during the 70s and 80s.

The 60-something musician claims to have decided who would do what in the band, saying: "I told Bob he'd be on vocals and I'd play bass."

He adds that he feels The Wailers were really "his band", adding: "I'm carrying the message forward."

The band's huge global success has meant that Family Man can still get a world tour off the ground simply by mentioning their name.

And touring and performing at festivals around the world is what the band does, backed by two of the three vocalists from Marley's original backing group, The I-Threes.

In Essaouira they were mid-way through a string of European performances including Holland and Finland.

Since Marley's death in 1981 Family Man has become best-known in Jamaica, having produced his own music. However he has not had the same success as The Wailers.

Bob Marley
Marley was a hugely influential and popular reggae artist
He is now best-known in Jamaica, even though he tours regularly with his Wailers band.

The concert itself is a riot of colour, with the audience bedecked in red, yellow and green, Marley's beloved Rastafarian colours, as part of their Moroccan Gnawa attire.

They also wear their hair in locks, just as Marley did, with hundreds of them dancing to his huge hit No Woman No Cry.

But the festival highlights more than reggae.

Present-day Morocco is now a Muslim country which openly embraces the music of a little known sub-sect of Islam who fuse the music of sub-Saharan Africa with North African sounds.

Essaouira was the main port for Tombuctu and slaves were the chief merchandise passing through.

Among the instruments of the Gnawa are giant castanets that imitate the noise of slave chains - a reminder of the roots of this event.

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