Friday, April 18, 2014

Ali Keeler & Al Firdaus and Tariqa Wazzaniyya at Sufi Festival



Ali Keeler

Friday night at the Fes Festival of Sufi Culture drew the largest crowd of the festival so far. The double-bill opened with Ali Keeler and the Al Firdaus Ensemble with Keeler featuring on vocals and violin. The music varied from Andalusian to a delightful surprise - a Celtic tune that started much like a slow Irish air before picking up the tempo and developing into a reel - albeit with unmistakably Islamic vocals.


Keeler was ably supported by his group who included some fine voices and wonderful bass cello. However it was his choice of material that won over the crowd with their simple but deeply religious message. The audience needed little prompting to join in the singing.

Al Firdaus - moving the audience


The Tariqa Wazzaniyya

The youngest Sufi

The Al Firdaus Ensemble was followed by the popular Wazzaniyya Tariqa. They entered in single file behind a beating drum and immediately had the audience on their feet. They were in fine voice and clearly had many devotees amongst the audience.


The Wazzaniyya, like the Charqawiyya, are an offshoot of the Jazuliyya-Shadhiliyya. They were founded by Moulay (saint) ‘Abd Allah al-Sharif (d.1678), who had been a member of the Jazuliyya order, and unlike the others take their name not from their master or founder, but from the town in which they are based: Wazzan, located in the south-west of Morocco and founded by al-Sharif in the first half of the 17th Century, and which, according to Halima Baali-Cherif, “is considered sacred to this day”. It is known by many Moroccans as “Dar Dmana” (The Abode of Protection).



A note on public safety:

Several members of the audience commented to The View from Fez that they felt insecure because of the size of the crowd. While the Batha Museum is a fine venue, this evening it was unfortunately packed beyond its capacity. The overcrowding and the placing of last minute "reserved seats" in front of audience members who had come early to get a good vantage point, caused entire sections to reposition their seats. This resulted in the complete blocking of aisle and exits. Fortunately there was no incident that required their use, but it was a situation that was far beyond normal health and safety practices. Ticket sales are important, but so is the safety of the public.

Tomorrow: A great evening of Samaa at the Hotel Zalagh Parc Palace. Please note the event is sceduled to start at 8.30 pm


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Turkish Whirling Dervishes ~ Tariqa Khalwatiyya at Fez Sufi Festival


The Tariqa Khalwatiyya
Allah, Allah, Allah
Allah ya Mawlana
Allah, Allah, Allah
Bifadlika Kuli

The Tariqa Khalwatiyya is an Islamic Sufi brotherhood that, along with the Naqshbandi, Qadiri and Shadhili orders,is among the most famous Sufi orders. The order takes its name from the Arabic word khalwa, meaning “method of withdrawal or isolation from the world for mystical purposes". The Khalwati order is known for its strict ritual training of its dervishes and its emphasis on individualism.

The Khalwatiyya are based in Turkey. However, though Moroccan, and more generally North African, Sufism is characterised by the devolution of multiple brotherhoods over time from a small group of orders who brought Sufism to North Africa, principally the Qadiriyya, the Shadhiliyya and the Khalwatiyya themselves, there exist a great number of similar annexes in Turkey, including orders descended from all three of those just mentioned. Rather than shedding light on some fundamental historical difference between Moroccan and Turkish Sufism, therefore, the “originality” of the Khalwatiyya, in contrast to their Moroccan counterparts, appears largely coincidental. Their origin will be seen to have played a part in the uniqueness of their rituals in comparison to the other brotherhoods.


Having said all this, it should be reiterated that the Khalwatiyya have a very strong presence in North Africa, principally through the Tijaniyya annex, which is the largest tariqa in West Africa and whose founder, Ahmed al-Tijani (d.1815), lived and was buried in Fez. Indeed it was al-Tijani who was responsible for propagating the Khalwatiyya order, which he had encountered in Cairo on his way to Mecca to perform the Hajj, in the Maghreb.


In a further example of the inter-connectedness of the brotherhoods’ histories, Tijani had also been an initiate of the Wazzaniyya and the Qadiriyya. This reflects the widespread diffusion of the oldest Sufi orders throughout the lands of Islam, and demonstrates how no order should be considered indigenously “Moroccan”, their origins stretching back to the medieval Middle-East and Central Asia. Similarly, whilst we may talk of the “Turkish Khalwatiyya”, the fact is that they originated in Tabriz, in what is present-day Iran, their master the Persian speaking ‘Umar al-Khalwati (d.1398).

Sheik Fatih Nurallah

The Concert

The Tariqa gave Fez a night of dhikr wa Samāa, or prayer and contemplation, and much more besides.

The evening began with the brotherhood chanting in a semi-circle, and progressed to one of the most spectacular and beautiful of Sufi practices - the whirling dervishes. To watch them is to have a sense of suspension, as though they are almost levitating.


The Tariqa re-grouped and began their deep, drum-like chant, over-toned by a singer on stage. Then they rose and moved into a tight circle, rotating as the chanting intensified. They opened out, and three dancers ran into the centre, leaping, turning and tossing their hair in a wild and joyous display.


The circle formed again, and more acolytes came to join, as the audience rose to add their voices to the experience.

As a finale, individual roses were thrown into the audience; a fitting token for a moving and exciting event.

Festival Director Faouzi Skali embraces Sheik Fatih Nurallah

Coming Up


Tariqa Wazzaniyya

Friday at 9pm at the Batha Museum: Ali Keeler and the Al Firdaus Ensemble followed by samaa with the Tariqa Wazzaniyya - Harraqiyya

Words and photos: Suzanna Clarke. Additional material: Fitzroy Morrissey

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Fez Hamadcha Sufi Troupe ~ May Visit Australia


Exciting news came this week that one of the most popular Sufi Brotherhoods in Fez has been invited to appear at the largest music festival in the Southern Hemisphere - the Woodford Festival in Australia. The festival runs for a week and entertains around 130,000 people. The appearance of the Hamadcha Sufis and other Moroccan events will also help attract more Australian visitors to Morocco

Due to financial constraints the entire tariqa will not be able to travel, but rather a small group will make the long journey "down under". There is still fundraising to be done, but if successful the troupe would perform in Australia between December 26 2014 and January 1st 2015

If the tour goes ahead the group will be lead by Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi and include musician and anthropologist Frédéric Calmès who will act as the group's translator.

Hamadcha leader Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi (centre) with the troupe
Frédéric Calmès playing the gimbri


Also appearing with the troupe will be English singer Faith Barker. Faith, who studies at Cambridge University, has been performing with the Hamadcha since last year when she was astonished to be asked to "come and sing at a festival in Meknes".


Faith Barker  - a wonderful addition to the troupe
Yesterday the Hamadcha performed privately at Riad Zany and took part in a photoshoot to promote the tour to Australia. The tariqa have performed at festival in Europe and Africa and their exciting and infectious style will certainly be a hit in the antipodes.

Rachida El Jokh ~ taking care of incense and ritual cuisine

Previous Appearances
-Festival of Fez, June 2009.
-Warchane-slam the malhoun Festival, Essaouira, May 2009.
-Festival-Sufi culture, Fez, April 2009.
- "Morocco, 12 centuries of history", UNESCO, Paris, November 2008 .
-Festival of Sacred Music, Fez, June 2008.
-Sufi Culture Festival, Fes, May 2007.
-Festival in the city of Sacred Music Festival in Fez, in June 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.
- Festival Bronsom paradise, Netherlands, July 2004.
-Festival of Sacred Music-Berlin, Germany, December 2003.
-Music Festival for Peace in Valencia, Spain in April 2003.
-Latitudes Festival-Maghreb-Villette, Paris, May 2002.
-Festival of World Sacred Music, Fes, Morocco, June 2002.
-Festival-Mediterranean Bari, Italy, August 2001.
-Festival-cultural Mediterranean, Sicily, Italy, August 2000.
-Festival of Popular Arts in Marrakech, Morocco, 2000.
-Time-Morocco, Café de la Danse, Paris, December 1999.
-Alabama Birmingham International Festival, USA in April 1999.


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