Monday, June 06, 2011

Francoise Atlan unplugged - literally!

A series of thunderstorms and showers crossed the Fez Medina in the afternoon, just as the Batha Museum concert was about to begin. It was obvious that the venue had to be changed, and thankfully the good news was that the Prefecture Hall, just across the road, was available. The not so good news was that the logistics of moving in chairs and security checks on the audience resulted in a long wait and a concert that eventually started more than an hour late.

The long queue waiting to get into the venue

Once the venue changed was announced, it was not just a question of walking over and sitting down. Many in the crowd did not appreciate the fact that the conference configuration in the hall had to be dismantled before enough chairs could be brought in to seat the audience.

Due to the venue change it was impossible to set up a sound system so the concert became Francoise Atlan unplugged. The Prefecture Hall is not known for its fine acoustics, and yet the large crowd that packed in seemed to dampen the echo effects and the result was surprisingly good.

The Prefecture Hall, packed to capacity

There is one word to describe Atlan's singing - blissful. From an almost whispered introduction, she reached out and filled the hall with nostalgia and romance of the Sephardic tradition. Then, with the Gaza-born Moneim Adwan, we experienced an encounter between the cultures of the Middle East and the Maghreb.

Adwan is not only a great singer but also a superb oud player. The two of them were accompanied by the Iranian percussionist Bijan Chemirani on zarb and daf.

Francoise Atlan prepares to perform

When the concert began, it was worth the long wait

The blending of different musical traditions is somewhat of a feature of the Fez Festival, and once again, under less than perfect conditions, it provided a wonderful concert for the large crowd.

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