Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Review of Through The Peacock Gate - Lauren Crabbe

Review by photojournalist Lauren Crabbe

Deliberating an opening for my review of Sandy McCutcheon’s Through the Peacock Gate, I opened the book at random and re-read whatever passage first caught my eye. It tied in quite nicely with a theory I’ve been developing about Fez, where the book is set: that its real truth lies in what defies superficial explanation; in negative space; in dichotomies. The passage, beginning modestly with, “Let me describe the indescribable”, unravels a series of concepts that not only challenge one another, but nearly cancel each other out. Incomprehensible magic that can’t be substantiated through folklore; thoughts constructing a realm where thought is unknown; a character completely devoured by space that transcends measurement, and yet becomes one with it. The kind of inversions that crack fragile Western minds with their immunity to paradox, that only someone who’s spent extended time in spiritual regions of the world can navigate.

McCutcheon has penned a literary equivalent of Schrödinger’s cat, and done so with alternating wry efficiency and achingly beautiful prose that’s engaging to read as it is mind-bending to comprehend. As I’m lucky enough to be in Fez at the time of reading, it was all I could do not to take off down the Medina in the middle of the night in search of the supernatural – threat of possession by djinns be damned.

The onset of mystery is slow, veiled by a deceptively simple premise: the main character, Richard (an alias), returns to Fez to find his house (or dar) robbed and gutted. After a brief detour into the vaults of his former life, he tentatively enlists the help of a local writer, Yazami, to find the men to repair it. From there, corners of a grander plot are meticulously doled out like sips of nus-nus left to cool down. Sometimes, they take the ghostly form of A’isha, a djinniya with a curious grudge who haunts Richard’s dar. Others appear as innocently as butterflies flapping their wings (Richard is a lepidopterist) before sudden twists blow through and flatten your sense of shrewdness. All orchestrate his gradual descent into madness – an intimidating portrayal, masterfully executed.

Embroidered through the suspense are tactful, sincere cultural observations that could only be garnered by someone who’s spent a decade weaving through Morocco’s ornate cultural fabric, as McCutcheon has. He opens a window into the local mindset that dispels any illusion we hold that we might know a thing or two they don’t. Spice shop owners quoting James Joyce and Yazami’s metaphysical mic-drops are contrasted with religious rubbernecking and vapid squabbles of expats and tourists; a prudent reminder we can strive to understand these foreign realms but never presume to know. Nothing is as it seems – a notion that will shock, delight, and humble you throughout the book as tools from McCutcheon’s thriller kit come into play.

Through Richard’s attempts to bridge his own shortcomings, we circle back again and again to this prominent theme of dichotomy. “My endeavours to cross this divide proved futile – each fragment of understanding opening up even bigger differences in our perception”. Yet this is what McCutcheon attempts, and succeeds, to do. Through the Peacock Gate deftly illustrates the process of the ordinary becoming extraordinary, and vice versa. Gently appreciating the subtle magic of the unknown, while revering the masochistic divine. It feeds you intimacy from a distance, and will leave you hungry like a djinniya for blood.

Lauren Crabbe:


A Sufi Moment in Fez

A Unique Spiritual Afternoon of Zikr ( Sufi Meditation ) and Sufi Songs with Shaykh Abd al- Hafidh Wentzel ( Germany ) and  Ustadh Shaykh Shihabuddin Farfour ( Syria ) Friday 22 June 2018 6pm
13, Akbat Sbaa، Fes 30100


Morocco Against Portugal @ World Cup

Morocco failed in their match against Portugal despite having a large number of Moroccan supporters in the crowd

Unfortunately Ronaldo struck quickly with a superb header

Morocco played an amazing game with a majority of possession, but not having a top striker to put the ball  in the net resulted in a number of missed shots at goal. Portugal won by the single goal, but played in a lack lustre manner.

Morocco are now out of the World Cup
Ronaldo was not at his best, but the only man to score


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Sal Sidner - Art Exhibition Opens Saturday

ART Exhibition - "The Dancing Brush " - Recent works by S a l  S i d n e r

O p e n i n g : Sunday, June 22, 6:30 PM ALIF Riad, 6 Derb Drissi, Bath
Continues daily 4-6 PM through June 30

Sal Sidner is an artist who paints what she sees en pleine aire when she travels. In the studio her mixed media paintings and installations reflect her love of music, textiles and collage, and address human culture, feminist issues and ecological concerns. Born in England, she attended Loughborough and West of England Colleges of art, before moving to India, and eventually the USA. Her Master’s studies were at New York University, Ca' Foscari in Venice Italy, and Academia de Bellas Artes, Florence. She holds Educational Specialist and Master’s degrees from the University of Florida, and currently teaches art. She has been awarded artist’s residencies in Europe, India and the USA, and exhibits at international fairs.

C o n t a c t :
GSM: 0641271605 - 0659661502
ALIF Riad, 6 Derb Drissi, Batha


Today's Big Question About Major Festivals

The View From Fez would like to hear from our readers on the subject of festival scheduling in Morocco

Why is it that the Essaouira Gnaoua Festival is on at the same time as the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music and Mawazine from 22-30 June? Many of our readers say they are torn between the three.

Many at the Gnaoua Festival would like to go on to Fez

Would it not be sensible to have one Festival follow the other, with maybe a one or two day break in between? This would enable patrons to travel between Fez, Rabat and Essaouira - and spend more time in Morocco.

Many at the Fes Festival would like to go on to Essaouira

The Gnaoua Festival starts on June 21st, the Fes Festival on June 22nd and Mawazine on June 22nd making it impossible to attend them all. Better scheduling would make good economic sense and would also allow for some artists to perform at more than one festival. It is worth thinking about


Concert : Unterbiberger Hofmusik @ Medina Social Club

Tomorrow (June 20th)  at 7 PM - 9 PM @Médina Social Club
Derb El Menia wosta. talaa kebira,


Fes Festival of World Sacred Music - Update

The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music looks set to have perfect weather for the entire time. The forecast is for daytime temperatures to be between 33 and 36 degrees Celsius and evenings a pleasant 17 0r 18 degrees

The opening night at Bab Makina (Friday June 22nd) promises to be another interesting creation under the direction of Alain Weber – Stage production and conception. Ramzi Aburedwan – Music direction. Christophe Olivier – Lighting designer. Franck Marty and Spectaculaires – Spectacle managers and image light operators. Scenographic creation (mapping).

On the theme of the present edition "Ancestral knowledge" the creation will highlight artisan motifs. In the Arabo-Islamic tradition, aspects of handicraft know-how are originally linked to a divine or prophetic revelation, as evidence of the desire to integrate a craft to a wisdom and to a practical and daily spirituality. The craftsman models and works on the material in the same way as the divine intellect configures the Soul in order to produce the cosmos, using shapes and colours. Therefore, the craftsman’s gesture is like a fragment of the universal action of the soul, creator of the universe. Such creation will, thus, be a great poetic and musical evocation of the privileged relationship prevailing in the City between architecture, handicraft, brotherhoods and crafts. Such reflections will be nurtured by the thoughts of the great Arab philosophers, both ancient and modern, inspired by Greek philosophy, particularly that of Aristotle.

Mapping will be sober and start from a black and white, very stylised graphic drawing which will successively give birth to a colourful historical architecture. Work on geometric motifs, emanating from weaving mosaics and moucharaby, or from weaving motifs. It will integrate with kalam by Julien Breton, a live calligrapher (light-graph). Prestigious artists from Morocco and the Arab world will highlight the traditional and modern aspect of these artisan crafts.

See the Festival programme here - Programme


Snarky Puppy, Hamid El Kasri and Hoba Hoba Spirit to open Gnaoua Festival

The Gnaoua and World Music Festival returns for its 21st edition, from June 21 to 23 in Essaouira. One of the most important artistic events of the Moroccan and international cultural agenda which starts with an opening parade

Opening parade - 18h00 @Bab Doukala

The opening of the festival is always a moment of great emotion. Every year, a colorful show, led by the Gnaoua maâlems, strolls through the streets of Essaouira to announce the beginning of the festivities.

Snarky Puppy Artistic Residence With Maâlem Hamid El Kasri @ 20h30 @ Scene Moulay Hassan

To kick off this edition, the Gnaoua and World Music Festival presents a high-end concert with the Snarky Puppy, an instrumental fusion jazz group and the most international of the maâlems: Hamid El Kasri.

This concert is the result of a residency of more than a week, where the musicians worked together to present a new musical creation.

The Snarky Puppy collective, coming to Africa for the first time, brings together talented musicians based in Brooklyn and from different cultures. Led by the bassist Michael League, and in the presence of the pianist, member of the group and regular of the festival, Bill Laurence.

The artistic residency of Maâlem Hamid El Kasri and the Snarky Puppy promises sparks. The rigor and the experience of maâlem will bring a new dimension to this musical encounter with a group that loves sharing.

Casablanca maâlems Ismael Rahil, Brahim Hamam and Khalid Sansi -9:30 pm @ Moulay Hassan stage

Hoba Hoba Spirit@ 23:00 @ Scene Moulay Hassan

Dar Loubane performances

23h00: Maâlem Haddada
00h15: Maâlem Ahmed Baqbou
Zaouia Issaoua
23h00: Maâlem Guadiri Hassan
00h15: Maâlem Omar Hayat
Zaouia Sidna Bilal
22h00 : Concert Hommage « Alwan Souira »
7 colors and 7 maâlems, this is the theme of this new tribute to the dead maâlems of the brotherhood of Essaouira.

The seven maâlems:
Maâlem Si Mohamed DARDAR
Maâlem Saïd BOURKI
Maâlem Abdellah AKHARAZ
Maâlem Abdelaziz SOUDANI
Maâlem Seddik LAARACHE
Maâlem Mokhtar GANIA
Maâlem Allal Soudani


Based in Brooklyn, Snarky Puppy is an instrumental fusion collective of more than 25 rotating musicians. Its members have played with big names such as Erykah Badu, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar or D'Angelo. Their music combines American "white" and "black" music with accents and influences from around the world. The members come from Japan, Argentina, Canada, Great Britain and Puerto Rico. The band was created in 2004 by composer and bassist Michael League.  The band won three Grammy Awards: in 2014, best R & B performance for their interpretation of Brenda Russell's song " Something"; in 2016 and 2017, Grammy Award for the best contemporary instrumental album for the albums "Sylva" and "Culcha Vulcha".


Hamid El Kasri was born in Ksar El Kebir in 1961 in northern Morocco. He was trained at the age of 7 by the maalem Alouane and Abdelouahed Stitou, but his passion comes from the husband of his grandmother, a former Sudanese slave. His talent allows him to reconcile the Gnaoua rhythms of North and South Morocco. He owes his reputation to his voice, deep and intense. This same voice makes him one of the most appreciated and sought after maalem. A regular at the Gnaoua and World Music Festival, he created the event in 2004 with the late Austrian legendary pianist Joe Zawinul, presenting one of the Festival's most memorable fusions. At the 2010 edition, Hamid El Kasri presented "Yobadi", an album of mergers, fruit of a close collaboration with Karim Ziad.


Between rock, hip hop, funk and Moroccan folklore, Hoba Hoba Spirit embodies the avant-garde, contemporary Moroccan scene with songs that become hits every time. Between "Welcome to Casa" and "Blad Skyzo", the singles are engraved in the memory of Moroccans. The group has 8 albums to its credit, including the last "Kamayanbaghi" (January 2018), and more than 500 concerts in Morocco and abroad. The Hoba have embarked on a great American tour where the press talked about "fun, intense funk moroccan band" (New York Music Daily), or "powerhouse mix" (Broadway World). The latest instalment of the group "Kamayanbaghi" offers thirteen new pieces illustrated by the artist Rebel Spirit ... Hoba Hoba Spirit and imposes itself as a generous and iconic group, both on stage and in their production.