Lauryn Hill made a solid return to the region with a performance at the Mawazine Festival in Morocco on May 15. Headlining the OLM Souissi stage in the capital Rabat, this was the second concert by the mercurial 41-year old in the Arab world - her last being a 2015 show as part of the Carthage Festival in Tunisia.
Hill provided a generous 19 song set that touched upon her work as a solo artist and her time with the political hip-hop trio, Fugees. But since this is Lauryn Hill we are talking about, there was always a sense the show could crash at any moment.
Wearing a Fez cap, black and white polka dotted shirt, oversized sunglass and earrings, Hill was the living embodiment of a Hassan Hajjaj photograph.
Determined from the get-go, she and her dozen strong band (including three back up singers), launched into the frenetic funky fury of Everything is Everything before delivering mesmerising rapid fire raps on Lost Ones and How Many Mics.
The latter was the first of three Fugees songs: a slightly chaotic Fu-Gee-La, a souped-up and bluesy Ready or Not and the heroic Killing Me Softly.
Since Hill’s oeuvre consists of only a solo album, the hip-hop classic Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998), and two Fugees releases - Blunted on Reality (1994) and The Score (1996), one can understand her reliance on covers to fill out the set.
However, it should have been more carefully curated.
The back to back performance of seven soul, pop and reggae standards - two from Sade, four from Bob Marley and one from Franki Valli - track was perilously close to sucking the energy out of the night.
But not every performer has a set closer like Hill's debut single Doo Wop (That Thing) in their back pocket.
An absolute beast of a track, Hill’s horn section led the band in what was delicious mess of funk, hip-hop and Nu-Soul, with the crowing glory being Hill’s nimble flow and socially conscious lyrics.
Nearly two decades on Doo Wop (That Thing) remains urgent and needed in these increasingly insecure times.
Even if Hill doesn’t release another album - she cancelled all media interviews to perhaps avoid such questions - having her around seems somehow re-assuring.
Everything Is Everything
Forgive Them Father
How Many Mics (Fugees)
Ready or Not (Fugees)
Killing Me Softly (Fugees)
Your Love Is King (Sade)
Sweetest Taboo (Sade)
Your Lights Down Low (Bob Marley & The Wailers)
Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You (Frankie Valli)
This Love (Bob Marley & The Wailers)
Could You Be Loved (Bob Marley & The Wailers)
Feelin' Good (Cy Grant cover)
Doo Wop (That Thing)
Check out Arts&Life for all the latest news and interviews from The Mawazine Festival in Morocco. The Festival continues until May 20.