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Prayer is better than sleep – call to prayer sound in Essaouira

This Fajr call to prayer sound is one of my all-time favourite field recordings – well worth getting up before dawn to record!

From the top of our riad in Essaouira, Morocco, you could hear two calls to prayer simultaneously from different sides – one a melodic song, the other more spoken and rhythmic in nature.

The riad was situated next to the city wall and the ocean, so you can hear breaking waves in one side of the stereo field and the occasional early morning gull flying past, searching for fish scraps to get ahead of the crowd.

The 3D sweep of the sound field, the beauty of the sung calls and the blend of sacred and nature sounds come together perfectly for me in this recording – so initially I wasn’t sure how to approach reimagining it as the sound seemed so “complete” to me as it stood.

City version:

I thought long and hard about the experience of standing on the rooftop before sunrise and the feelings that flowed through me.

As well as the sheer beauty of the call resounding through an otherwise-peaceful soundscape, at times I was driven to think of radio waves undulating above the city, pulsing from the TV aerials and joining the beautiful call to prayer sound in the sky above me, creating a cosmic cloud of sound where tradition and technology meet.

This piece therefore creates a version of that cloud, as sonic impressions of radio waves pulsate and surround the listener, while the Fajr call to prayer fades in and out.

One synthesised part recreates the waves of the Atlantic, which can clearly be heard in the original recording alongside the muezzin’s call.

The title comes from the line “prayer is better than sleep”, which is contained within the Fajr call to prayer.

Memory version: