Sunday, October 22, 2017

"Tales from Muslim Heritage" - Theatre in Fez

ALC Drama Club: "Tales from Muslim Heritage" Featuring Eleanor Martin and the Khayaal Theatre Company  Tuesday, October 24 at 6:30 PM ALIF Riad, 6 Derb Drissi, Batha, Fes Medina

This rich collection of tales from the length and breadth of the Muslim world will make you laugh, cry and soar on the wings of your imagination. Come join the Drama Club for an inspiring shared experience of eloquence, creativity and beauty in performance by an acclaimed international artist.

Eleanor Martin, a professional actress and stage director with mainstream TV and film credits, has performed as a storyteller for the past 15 years. She employs a dramatic and physical multi-character role-playing performance style that has been described by audiences as mesmerising and imaginatively and spiritually nourishing and inspiring. She specialises in telling stories from Muslim heritage with a contemporary twist.

Khayaal Theatre Company, founded 1997, is an award-winning theatre company dedicated to the dramatic exploration of Muslim literature and the experience of Muslims in the modern world for the stage, film, radio and education. Over the past 20 years, they have reached audiences of all ages, cultures, ethnicities and faiths numbering in the tens of thousands, both nationally and internationally.
This performance is free and open to the general public.


Fez Festival of Sufi Culture - Wrap Up

Festival Director Faouzi Skali and his team are to be congratulated on running a successful festival. The programming covered a wide range of examples of Sufi culture and was enjoyed by an enthusiastic audience.

The contingency plans in case of inclement weather worked smoothly so there was little or no disruption to the events. The choice of the Batha Prefecture Hall as an alternative venue worked well, despite its lack of atmosphere and average acoustics.

Farida Parveen

Highlights included the opening concert: Farida Parveen and the songs of the Samâa of Fez - "Homage to Al Shustari; of the Divine Love, from Morocco to India."  Farida Parveen, a Bangladeshi folk singer specialises in the songs of Lalon Shah and she delivered them in pure tones that delighted the audience. The Samâa of Fez were a given a warm reception, particularly by the large number of locals in the audience.

Shiva Prakash

Indian singer Shiva Prakash produced some gentle  music and was thanked with generous applause. The readings by Katia Légeret (in French) were beautifully delivered.

The concert by Daud Khan was a virtuoso performance,

Ustad Daud Khan 
The theatricality of the dervishes was a firm favourite

The Sufi Brotherhoods that performed varied widely, from the music-centred Tariqa Rissouniya to the popular Tariqa Sharqawiya, Tariqa Qadiriya Boutchichiya and the dynamic Tariqa Naqshbandiya.

Each tariqa had its followers present and joining in the chanting, though there was less audience participation than in some previous years.

The final concert with the dervishes and the Samaa of Fez was an exception, with large numbers of people singing along.

There was less audience participation than in previous years
The audience at the final concert were more vocal

Overall it was a successful festival and it is hope this will lay the foundation for festivals in the future.  The time of year was perfect, despite the unexpected arrival of some rain.

Festival Director Faouzi Skali

On the Downside

*The initial venue at the main gates of the Jnan Sbil Gardens was for opening night was a major staging mistake, as with bad sight lines and the viewing obstruction due to the placement of television cameras, a large number of people had no view of the stage. The problem was exacerbated by the number of performers who sat on the carpet rather than chairs. A raised dais for such performances would be sensible in the future.

Sight lines were bad, but the sound was fine

Thankfully, Festival Director Faouzi Skali took the complaints onboard and acted decisively. The venue was moved and  to a beautiful area of the gardens where a good view of the stage was available to all. The new venue was also set up in the round, which was a sensible decision.

*The increase in the number of people making video recordings with tablets or smart phones has increased and so have the complaints. Obstructing the view of others is not polite. One solution would be to ban all non-accredited photographers, but it would be very difficult to police.

Should phone and tablet photography be banned?
"Watching performances is spoiled by the incessant and unhindered use of mobile phones to take pictures and film, it does not stop ... I have heard many spectators and  foreigners who complained about it ... it's very disturbing and uncivil, the opposite of the spirit of the event ... please make announcements before the performance or ban phones and tablets outright! A show is sacred!" - A visitor from France
*Another issue is the lack of introduction of round table participants. While it is understood that many are well known, they are not so to everyone.  To have speakers in each discussion listed in the programme would also help.

*Translation headphones for English were not available and there was very little attempt to translate discussions. As one German citizen remarked "Do they really think our second language is French?"

* Some audience members felt that it would be a good idea to have fresh faces on the discussions and that overall the festival could afford to take risks in programming to include more "edgy" performances.

Click on links to read a full review of each day

Who are the Sufis?
Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five
Day Six
Day Seven
Day Eight

Photographs and text: Sandy McCutcheon

The View From Fez is an official Media Partner of the Fez Festival of Sufi Culture


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fez Festival of Sufi Culture - Day Eight Review

The final round table set out a synopsis of the Sufi Festival's series of round tables. It was well attended on a beautiful afternoon in the Medrassa Bou Innania. The evening concert was held at the Bab El Makina
Moroccan hospitality - a man distributes mandarins to the audience
Nine members of the final forum
Women comprised around 65% of the audience
Closing Concert

The opening part of the final concert saw a warm welcome back to the stage for the Turkish contingent - great music, powerful singing, guttural chanting and being treated to an intense display of the dramatic power of the Khalwatiyya and in particular the extraordinary grace of Burak Bildik and his "whirling Dervish" brothers.

The leader of the Tariqa Khalwatiyya, Shaykh Nur Allah Fatih, is no stranger to festivals in Fez and it was a delight to have him back again.

Burak Bildik is mesmerising in his intense concentration
Shaykh Nur Allah Fatih is a powerful and charismatic leader

Part Two - the great voices of the Samâa of Morocco.

53 singers and musicians gave a great performance

The second part of the programme was an explosion of joyful Samâa - with an extraordinary number of musicians and singers - 53 in all. The audience reaction was immediate. This was the home team singing the songs loved by the people and they scored in the opening minute.

Although the solo singers get the most appreciation, the orchestra played superbly. The orchestration produced more than simply a backing band and the audience acknowledged it. Solo Oud and solo flute performances evoked applause from the audience as much as did the individual singers.

Marouane Hajji

The standout solo singer was, once again,  Marouane Hajji. Back in 2011, The View From Fez described Marouane Hajji as a "rising star". Now that that star has well and truly risen. Marouane Hajji, born in Fez in 1987, is a violinist and Sufi singer with considerable charisma, who began singing at the age of five, studying under the tutelage of Sheikh Haj Mohammed Bennis, at the Mederssa Rachidite in Ras Echarratine and with teachers at the Fez Conservatory of Music.

In 1998, he won first place in a competition held at the National Festival of Singers in Fez for his ability to captivate an audience, the power of his voice and originality of his performance.

The orchestra was superb
"Omitting to hear Marouane Hajji at a Festival of Sufi Music in Fez would be like a trip to the Louvre without seeing the Mona Lisa."
The Fez Festival of Sufi Culture opened with an homage to Al Shustari and so the Samâa, based on the poetry of Al Shustari, brought the Sufi festival to a fitting end. 

Text and photographs: Sandy McCutcheon

The View From Fez is an official Media Partner of the Fez Festival of Sufi Culture