Thursday, June 10, 2010

2010 Fez Festival Wrap-up

Morocco's 16th Fes Festival of World Sacred Music was generally a success, with the audience enjoying most of the concerts and having a good time.

There were some excellent innovations such as the Night in the Medina on Monday, where festival-goers managed to find their way around the medina to attend concerts in various venues. There were a few hiccups, such as the synagogue proving too small and the concert there being moved to a nearby outdoor venue where the sound wasn't so good and local children ran around noisily. But generally, this was a terrific idea and one we'd like to see repeated.

The shade cloth at the Batha Museum

One of the great improvements of the festival was the beautifully designed shade cloth that afforded some relief from the sun at the Batha Museum. This was very much appreciated by the audience and performers alike.

The morning concert of Indian flutes was also a new departure for the festival. It proved extremely popular - another idea to continue next year.

Alain Weber

The new Artistic Director, Alain Weber, did an excellent job on the whole. The View from Fez team's favourite concerts were Epi from Mongolia, Parvathy Baul, the South Korean drummers, the Sizero Tabla Experience - and Jordi Savall has to be congratulated for sheer audacity. Brickbats, though, to too much jazz and a less then impressive final night.

It has to be said that once again the foreign press were treated extremely shoddily. Badges were not ready in time, which made covering the opening concert very difficult. Management had no answers and weren't very polite either. There is great potential for the Festival PR to be improved substantially.

Ben Harper's non-arrival was a great disappointment to a lot of people. Harper's website is full of notes from frustrated fans, many having travelled great distances and made sacrifices to be there, like this one:
Hope you'll be doing well very soon !
But i just want to say that we've been waiting for this concert for a long time ! and what i see this morning : the concert is canceled and ben is hitting the rehab to join pearl jam , we are not going to be there man ! i would have liked to read something like the morocco concert will be delayed for another time . I sold the only guitar i have to buy me a ticket for the concert ! 500 DHs is quite expensive here . i ran away from home , cause my parents wouldn't let me go to fes , now they are angry as hell , i'm going back home tonight and i'm pretty afraid !

well hope you're injury will heal very soon for the pearl jam show ! but our feelings of deception as BH fans will take a long time to heal .


Naturally most of the attention at a festival is on the performers and the chief organisers. However, behind the scenes, or in the public firing line, are dozens of others who work tirelessly to make certain everything happens as it should.

This year we would like to pay tribute to some of the unsung heroes who made this year's festival such a pleasure to work on.

Hassan Zemmouri

Going from venue to venue, getting stories written, grabbing a bite to eat, processing the photographs and checking the facts can be exhausting and so when you arrive at a venue it makes a huge difference if you are greeted warmly and manage to find a position suitable for taking photographs.

At Bab al Makina, Hassan Zemmouri, the chief protocol officer from the office of the Wali of Fez, was a superb facilitator. Even under the pressure of hundreds of people wanting their preferred seat, Zemmouri was unflappable, friendly and courteous. He did his job superbly and made our festival so much easier. Thank you.

The sound and lighting at this festival was extremely good

Christophe Olivier and Chris Ekers

Meet the men who made the difference when it came to sound and lighting. Chris Ekers and his team at the sound desk of both major venues gave the audience the best possible experience, even when working with some very difficult and windy conditions The handling of the massive concert from Jordi Savall was exceptional, given the thirty or so people on stage.

This year's lighting was the best yet and for that we thank Christophe Olivier. Well done.

Mamoan Belghiti

Sometimes it is the little things that make a difference. When The View from Fez team was tired and thirsty from charging up and down the Medina, it was Mamoan Belghiti who managed to find bottled water and, unasked, fetched it for us. On another occasion he materialised with a very much needed cup of coffee. A true gentleman. Shukran bizef, sidi.

Lamia Hejaj

Someone once said that looking after journalists was like herding cats - it is not an easy job. But Lamia Hejaj, whose responsibilities encompassed sponsorship and media partners, never lost her cool. With a phenomenal ability to recall everyone's names and field questions on every conceivable subject, she was a credit to the festival.

Security - the men on the front line

Being a security guard at an event where every audience member wants to get in and wants to get in now, is not easy. We take our collective hats off to the security team who did a difficult job with patience and even occasional charm!

Gérard Chemit

Photographers can be a territorial bunch, marking out their favourite spots and guarding them. However, Gérard Chemit is an exception, kindly sharing photographs with The View from Fez. We would also like to thank photographers Lynn Evans Davidson, Mary Finnigan and Susanna Wyatt for providing additional photographs.


Hats off to the announcer, whose name we don't know, who corrected her pronunciation of the word 'sponsors' after a gentle nudge. It was so good to have English spoken so well.


Photographers and particularly TV and video camera operators can be particularly annoying to an audience. Each year we award the Wooden Spoon to an individual in the media who has not tried quite hard enough to blend in.

"Mr Bean"

This year's winner nominated himself right from the start. Within days of the festival starting, the international journalists had dubbed him "Mr Bean". Barging in where others would not dare might get him points for bravery, but it went beyond that. On several occasions "Mr Bean" had to be extricated by security guards. Yet, with his winning smile, he never gave up. The high point of his exploits was an attempt to wriggle between the legs of a TV camera. He failed and had to be assisted in a backward wriggle by a security guard.

UPDATE: Our "Mr Bean", sent us this friendly note: I'm not Mr Bean but a professionnal photographer, call me Jacques Tati I shall prefer ! Friendly yours, Frédéric Poletti

And how did others see the Festival? Here is a great report on Link TV from Michal Shapiro:

A Day in the Life of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

This post will be a little bit different from my others. Rather than simply reporting on the music from the Fes Festival (which I will do in other postings) I'm going to try to convey the experience of being there. I've taken everything I shot from my first full day and laid the most vivid parts out, travelogue-style. So you're getting a full day in under 9 minutes.

A word on the video quality: I went with my Flip camera which was fine for some things, and truly inadequate for others. So you are going to see some pretty grainy stuff every now and then (low light, fuzzy zoom, or both). You are also going to see some very high quality video that was kindly supplied to me by a REAL filmmaker with a REAL camera. So all in all it will be a bumpy ride. But frankly, Fes is a bumpy ride. That's why I start out with a statement from my colleague Cindy Byram, who has attended the festival for 6 years in a row, and who speaks from experience. In the end I agree with her 100%.

There are four main venues for the festival: three paying, one public. One generally starts the day at the Batha Museum courtyard, an intimate setting with a magnificent Barberry tree that spreads its shade over 65% of the area. After a dinner break, you head on out to catch the "Big Act" at the impressive walled Bab al Makina (another paying venue) and then pass through the Bab Boujloud public performance area on your way to the last musical event, at the lovely Dar Tazi, where you can sit at a table under the trees, sip mint tea, and listen to Sufi chants. The public performances have been added in the last few years, and this is where you will find your everyday Moroccan, since the paying venues are too expensive for most. The music there is more local, and I was particularly taken with this venue, as you will see.

To see all the Fez Festival 2010 stories from Morocco, on The View from Fez, click HERE!


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