Friday, May 20, 2011

Fez Festival Update no.6: Night in the Medina II

The second Night in the Medina at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music will take place from 20h00 on Tuesday 7 June. On these evenings, a number of concerts are planned at glorious palaces and riads across the ancient medina, and visitors choose which ones they'd like to see. You can usually manage three concerts as they're no longer than an hour each.

Here's the programme for Tuesday:

DAR MOKRI – 20h00
Mohamed Amin El Akrami and his orchestra – Morocco
The Arabo-andalous tradition of Tetouan

Mohamed Amin El Akrami (pictured above) is no stranger to the Festival. He personifies the Andalous musical heritage of Tetouan, a mountain town at the foot of the Rif. Tetouan is often called the Andalousian courtyard of Morocco; it’s a vestige of Andalusia, the Moorish soul, a melting-pot where Fassi nobility mixed with neighbouring tribes, Jews and Algerians.

The Tetouan al-âla music is both harsh and sophisticated, brilliantly performed by Mohamed Amin El Akrami. This musician began his career with the religious songs of madih and with the great masters of samâ such as Mohamed Larbi Temsamani and Abdessadak Chekara. From a religious background, he joined the Music Conservatory at Larache at a young age to learn the oud with the master Hassan Hariri. In Tetouan he refined his art and immersed himself in the very heart of the Moroccan musical heritage.

Dar Mokri is situated in Oued Sawwafine, and is a palace dating from the beginning of the 20th century. It was built by Driss Moqri who was Mohtassib of Fez and brother of the Grand Vizier Lhaj Mohammed. There are several pavilions arranged around an open courtyard. For some years the palace has housed the Institute of Traditional Building Techniques and is used for training artisans in the restoration of traditional buildings.

Paraguay Barroco d’Asuncion Ensemble – Latin America
Remains of a dream
Alexandre Chauffaud, musical direction
Jessica Bogado and Laura Delogu, sopranos
Extracts from the Peruvian Codes of the Andes, 18th century

Half-way between European Baroque and local traditional, this music lies at the crossroads of two civilisations, born of the conquest of the new world.

The sacred music of Latin America developed hugely from the end of the 16th century and through the following century. The young musicians of Paraguay Barroco tell us this musical tale, using both European and native instruments which gives a very particular flavour to Baroque music. There are ancient keyboards, violins and cellos of course, but also bombo percussion and the Paraguayan harp which are played with great virtuosity in Paraguay up to the present day.
There are rhythms and colours in Latin music that are unknown to the rest of us. They move effortlessly from a religious psalm to a lively guaracha, gradually discovering those ‘remains of a dream’; that of all those Jesuit or Franciscan missionaries who tried to change society through music. This is the story of civilisations and geography, of resounding magic – one that tells a different story of the world.

The Batha Museum is a former palace built by Moulay Hassan (1873-1894) and enlarged by Moulay Abdelaziz (1894-1908). It was used for royal audiences during the summer months. In 1915 it was transformed into a Museum of the Arts and Traditions of Fez, and was listed as an historical monument in 1925.

DAR ADIYEL – 21h30
Wajd Ensemble – Morocco
Songs inspired by the Arabo-Andalous tradition
Naziha Meftah, vocals
Ghaïs Jasser, composition and piano
Khaled Roumo, poetry

"Song releases us from the chains of reality and transports us to a land of dreams and beauty," explains Naziha Meftah (pictured above). Her singing is the feminine expression of Andalous poetry, restrained and refined.

Born in Chefchaouen, high in the mountains, Naziha Meftah’s warm, crystalline voice harmoniously marries the songs of the Orient with those of the Maghreb. She expresses the emotions and intensity of Arab song while remaining open to current trends. Alongside Ghaïss Jasser, composer, and Khaled Roumo, artistic director, Naziha Meftah revives the idea of wajd, the intense desire for God.

Her voice takes us from mouwachchahat (songs inspired by the Arabo-andalous tradition) to the great classics of Arab song, from Feirouz to Oum Kelthoum.

Built towards the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th, Dar Adiyel has been used for several official and public functions: as a mint, as the kingdom’s treasury, as a museum of traditional craft and, after independence, as the Music Conservatory of Morocco for Andalous and Malhoun Music. Today, after restoration, the palace continues its function as a music conservatory providing academic teaching of the traditional music of medieval Andalusia.

Homayoun Sakhi – Afghanistan
The art of rubâb

If ever a pious man hears the sound of rubâb, he will abandon his prayer mat for this instrument. Afghan proverb

Homayoun Sakhi (pictured above) has devoted his life to the rubâb. This instrument is emblematic of Afghanistan; its silvery, incisive sounds later inspired the sarod of classical Hindu music. The plucked strings give resonance against the mulberry wood that is covered with goatskin. The neck has three gut strings and eleven other strings.

DAR MOKRI – 22h30
Nahal Tajadod and Jean-Claude Carrière
The Conference of the Birds by Farid Eddin Attar

In this reading, Jean-Claude Carrière and Nahal Tajadod revive the Sufi tale written by Farid Eddin Attar: all the birds, both known and unknown, met together one day and realised that they had no king. They decided to go off to search for the Simorg king-bird, symbol of God in the Persian mystical tradition.
This celebrated initiatory tale, that lies somewhere between a story and an anecdote, remains one of the jewels of Muslim spirituality. The great Rûmî said of the Persian author, Attar, poet and mystic (circa 1140-12h30), “He was the soul of Sufism; I can only follow in his footsteps.”

Jean-Claude Carrièrre, writer, screenwriter, playwright and narrator, has always had great regard for the culture and spirituality of the Orient. He has worked with the great personalities of the world of culture and art, such as Jacques Tati, Luis Buñuel, Jean-Louis Barrault, Peter Brook, Milos Forman and Volker Schlöndorff. He is the author of a number of books and essays inspired by the orient. Nahal Tajadod was born in Teheran, and is the author of various works on China as well as a novelised biography of Rûmî (2004, J-C Lattès) and Passeport à l’Iranienne (2007, J-C Lattès).

DAR TAZI – 23h00
Divana Ensemble – Rajasthan, North India
Sufi chants from the Thar desert

Divana Ensemble

The harshness and authenticity of these desert voices create a myriad of songs from their nomad societies that have great poetic refinement.

The Manghaniyars and Langas continue this music and poetry from the ancient traditions of the Thar culture. These castes have felt beneath their feet both the desert stones and the marbled halls of their Rajput masters, and fascinate us with the richness of their medieval heritage, both Sufi and Hindu.

During the 13th and 14th centuries, there was a new, syncretic approach between Hinduism and Sufism. Some panth sects of the lower castes assimilated the new Ismaelite doctrines that were being spread by many wandering missionaries (dai). These nomadic monks who walked the byways of Northern India were inspired by Sufi culture and created new mystical thought.
The Divana singers perform a raw, severe song about the search for divine love (muhabbat) and the never-ending quest for ecstasy, influenced by the harshness of their environment.

Dar Tazi was built in 1900 and served as the Governor General’s Residence from 1914-1956. After independence, it was home to two Fez Governors and then the Pasha who lived there until the end of 1986. It has a beautiful garden full of citrus trees.

NB: The View from Fez will publish a map of the medina showing concert venues.

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