Sunday, June 06, 2010

Fez Festival: Under African Skies

The evening concert at Bab al Makina on Sunday continued the African theme with the Sufi Mtendeni Maulid from Zanzibar and the Master Drummers of Burundi.

The Zanzibari Sufi brotherhood, lead by Barua Ussi Khamis (pictured below) were singing before they climbed onto the stage, and their long renditions accompanied only by drums soon led them into a trance. This Rifai tariqa (brotherhood) is well known for their kneeling position and their swaying movements, reminiscent of the sea surrounding their island. At times they looked like the slaves their ancestors might have been, sailing the dhows of the Indian Ocean.

The Zanzibari Sufi brotherhood

Unfortunately, the side projection screen was only brought into use one hour into the concert, which meant that many people in the audience were not able to watch the movements of the brotherhood on their knees. This is the second time that the screen has not been used (the first being opening night when the hand movements of the Cambodian ballet dancers are crucial to their art). Such a pity - the screen is a welcome addition to the stage at Bab al Makina, but does need an operator who's on time!

According to Festival officials, they had no idea why the projection began so late. However, sound problems in the first half of the concert were attributable to wind noise and interference on a pair of radio microphones worn by one of the performers. The interference was caused by competing frequencies from other radio sources, as yet unnamed.


Artistic Director Alain Weber and Sound Engineer Chris Ekers

a happy festina dances to the music in the forecourt

The second part of the concert featured the energetic Master Drummers of Burundi. Drums have always been sacred in Burundian culture, used only for particular rituals such as coronations or funerals of important people.

Dressed in the national colours of their country, the Master Drummers of Burundi bounded onto stage with the high energy they are renowned for. The immense enthusiasm for performance was matched only by the high sound level of their drumming. The effect on the audience was immediate and positive!

The leader of the troupe maintained the high intensity, leaping and dancing to rhythms that were superbly executed. The crowd loved it. It is to be hoped that a wider audience of Moroccans will have the pleasure of experiencing this troupe, as they are truly superb.

Overall, despite the small audience, the problems with sound and projection, this was a memorable evening.

However, some thought should be given as to which venue various groups perform at. The Sufi musicians in the first half of this evening's performance would be far better suited to the Batha afternoon concert. This suggestion was also made when Jordi Savall performed at the Batha Museum, except in his case it was obvious he should have been in the major venue. Thankfully, this year Savall will perform on the main stage.

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

Reporting: Helen Ranger/Sandy McCutcheon
Photographs: Sandy McCutcheon

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