Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Night in the Medina II at Fes Festival

As many venues in the Fez medina are out in the open, it was not possible to hold many of the concerts planned for the second Night in the Medina due to the poor weather. However, the Jnan Palace Hotel in the new city of Fez provided an opportunity for festival-goers to see some of the events that had been planned. In the medina itself, Riad Mokri hosted Mohamed Amin el Akrami and his Orchestra from Tetouan, as well as Alemu Aga. Later in the evening the rain stopped, and the Divana Ensemble from Rajasthan were able to perform their Sufi songs of the Thar Desert.

the Divana Ensemble from Rajasthan

PREM SANYAS, The Light of Asia

This is a remarkable black-and-white silent film made in 1925 by German film-maker Franz Osten. It tells the story of Siddharta Gautama growing up in sumptuous style in Rajasthan and winning the bride of his dreams, Gopa.

The musicians left of screen

Gautama subsequently realises there is a life outside his protected palace that is filled with suffering, leaves his pampered life and sets out on a path of compassion towards enlightenment as the Buddha.

All the style of the much later Bollywood

The Manghaniyar and Langa castes of Rajasthan, formerly in the service of their Hindu lords, were represented by a wonderful set of musicians who recreated the original film music. Watching the film closely as they played, the musicians brought it all to life - from the lumbering royal elephants to galloping horses, from the wedding pageantry of Gautama and Gopa to the tragic elements of his discovery of suffering.

A film with glorious images

For the audience, this was a transfixing and inspiring evening - a truly wonderful event.

Our music correspondent, Chris Witulski also enjoyed the performance : The Rajastani musicians, beginning with lilting melodies from a double flute, led us through the story of the Buddha. After a short period of time, and thanks to the perfect scoring and arranging, it was easy to forget that this was a collaborative production of sorts and the music we were hearing was not the original. It often synced appropriately with the passing film scenes (aside from the incessant use of castanets whenever there were horses on screen, that was a touch excessive).

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