A Traveling Bus Records Morocco’s Rhythms

By Anika Reker

Rabat – A 30-year-old campervan, a German-Polish couple around the same age, and a load full of microphones, mic stands, amplifiers, and professional recording equipment comprise the “Hit the Road Music Studio.”

Founded by audio engineer Adrian Parzentry and artist Kasia Pisula, the project grants talented musicians access to high-quality music recording equipment, especially those who are not able to afford it otherwise. In the past year, the mobile studio has featured approximately 50 musicians and bands and reached over half a million listeners with their productions.

As a traveling journalist from Germany in Morocco, I found out about “Hit The Road Music Studio” by coincidence. I checked out their YouTube channel and got in touch via Instagram. Adrian and Kasia were based in the desert village of Tagounite at the time, working with the band Daraa Tribes. In the middle of February this year, we finally were able to set up a meeting when my route led me through nearby Zagora.

It was a hot and dusty day when Kasia and Adrian came to meet me with their friends from Daraa Tribes and with Noura, a female singer from Zagora. Despite the heat, the atmosphere was easy and relaxed as we all got to know each other over some mint tea. 

Inspiration to ‘Hit the Road’

The first thing I really wanted to know was how the couple got the idea to leave everything behind and start their project. Adrian, a tall man with long blond hair and lips always curved into a big smile, explained that he wanted to open up his own music studio for a long time but was not content with the prospect of sitting idly indoors, waiting for musicians to call: “So, the idea popped up to buy a campervan and build up a mobile recording studio and just go hunting musicians all over the world to bring them the good vibes.”

While Adrian takes care of the recording and audio mixing, his girlfriend Kasia is responsible for the project’s visual design aspects and shoots the music videos. In the past few years, the couple has lived in many different places like Berlin and Krakow and always spared lots of time for traveling. They are no longer choosing their destinations only because they are nice to visit, but are driven by the search for good sounds. “This is really our life now,” said Kasia with her dark eyes smiling underneath a black pageboy hairdo, adding that “we like slow travel and meeting people and [sharing] the life. The project allows us to combine all of this.”

Throughout the conversation, they told me about their pilot in the summer of 2018. They traveled for one month to Essaouira, a coastal city in southern Morocco. At the time, they did not yet have their campervan. Instead, they stuffed microphones and stands into their backpacks and simply walked through the city, asking anyone if they were interested in recording a single. 

The idea worked out. They met and recorded singer-songwriters, street musicians, and even entire orchestras. During this short time, they already developed the notion that Morocco is a very special country regarding sounds. “Music is such a big part of the culture,” said Adrian. “People just play and got the rhythm inside. Nobody is ashamed. This enables musicians to develop many different styles.” One year, later they had saved up enough money for their mobile studio and decided to return to Morocco, “the land of music.”

Adrian Parzentry and Kasia PisulaTribal harmonies

Perhaps more than any other element of Moroccan music, the different styles of the Sahara coupled with the region’s extraordinary instruments left the couple deeply impressed. One example of the unique desert style is the band Daraa Tribes. “We play the blues of the desert,” said rhythm guitarist Mustapha Agermim. He had just returned to the scene along with his fellow band members after changing from street clothes into traditional outfits consisting of long colorful garments and turbans. “The band tries to take what is very old and traditional and mix it with modern instrument,” he explained.

Their sound is one thing, but what really made Kasia and Adrian want to work with the group is their message of peace, love, and unity. Each of the five members is from a different tribe. “In other places in the world you can still see tribal wars. So, we are showing people of the world that we are all here in the Draa Valley living in harmony,” Agermim added.

For Agermim and his bandmates, working with “Hit the Road Music Studio” was both a pleasure and a professional benefit. The band had worked with different producers before, but collaborating with Adrian really stuck out for them. They recorded the songs using 14 different microphones, which they said added significant value to the production. 

A supportive community experience

Kasia shot scenes with them playing in the desert and they emerged from the collaborative work with two professional music videos. Adrian and Kasia did not charge anything for their services. “Some bands pay, but we don’t want to build up a barrier for musicians that don’t have the money. That is the philosophy of the project. It would be a pity if bands would not be heard due to the lack of money,” said Adrian.

This seemed to me like a very noble and generous way of operating, but left me wondering how they could afford traveling while working mostly for free. It turned out that most of the groups and musicians, including Daraa Tribes, offer them a place to stay and food in return. Meanwhile, they maintain a low-cost lifestyle while traveling. “We made lots of very good friends and for me, this has more value than a few euros more in my pocket,” said Adrian.

Even though the couple picked up a little Tamazight (Berber) and Arabic throughout their journey, they are far from speaking either fluently. But language never has been a big issue for them. Agermim speaks English while the rest of the band does not feel comfortable with it — just like many other musicians they worked with. “You know, we are working in the domain of music,” said Agermim while Adrian added: “Most of the time we don’t need translation. Music is a beautiful language and easy language to work with.”

Adrian and Kasia have now spent almost a year in Morocco. Within that time, “Hit The Road Music Studio” featured approximately 50 musicians and produced a total of 60 songs. Alongside most of the tracks, they released one or even two videos on their YouTube channel. 

Among the featured musicians were some well-known bands such as Daraa Tribes, but also absolute newcomers who had only ever recorded with their phones. One of the less experienced musicians is the singer Noura, who also shared in the conversation and tea at our meeting in Zagora. “Before, I have played at a festival in Tan-Tan along with Daraa Tribes,” Noura said. “I am really excited to do my first recording with Adrian.”

‘Hit the Road Music Studio’: A Traveling Bus Records Morocco’s RhythmsNoura, Daraa Tribes, and AdrianLooking forward

“Noura was the first female musician from Morocco we worked with,” Adrian and Kasia told me over the phone when I recently contacted them for an update. “We don’t really strategize who will be featured but we would love to record more women and started to reach out to female musicians in Morocco,” said Kasia. Now they have some Moroccan women in the queue and are hoping to meet with them when lockdown ends.

When Morocco implemented its coronavirus containment measures in March, the couple found themselves stuck on a campground in Sidi Ifni. The cost for the long stay took up much of their savings. On top of that, bands who were willing and able to pay for their services suddenly did not have the money anymore due to canceled concerts. 

Instead of burying their heads in the sand, they came up with the idea of starting a fundraiser and are collecting money to eventually be able to realize the canceled productions when lockdown ends. Supporters of the campaign will also benefit. Depending on the chosen donation package, contributors are rewarded with access to the album or, for one example, mixing lessons by Adrian. “We turned a lose-lose-situation into a win-win for everyone,” said Adrian.

After getting to know the heads behind “Hit The Road Music Studio” and hearing about what they have done to support and productively challenge talented musicians, I can only conclude that the project is a winner.

Read also: Ramadan in Morocco: A Bohemian South Korean Chef’s Treasured Experience

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