Saturday night was a busy one in Fez, after the concert at Bab al-Makina, our Fez Festival Music correspondent, Chris Witulski, did the late night rounds of the other events. Here is his report.
From Makina, it was a short walk to visit the Boujloud stage, where Morocco's Saida Fikri was set to play. While waiting, fans chanted "Saida, Saida, Saida" and, once a local radio host came out to move things forward, we were treated to a crowd-wide rendition of the Moroccan anthem. Saida's band entered, looking hip and including piano, drums, bass, congas, and... cello. Then, as Saida arrived, the audience went wild, and the music began.
An acoustic guitarist, her songs are somewhere between (or around) the American folk sound, Moroccan chaabi, Algerian rai, and, of course, a healthy dose of reggae. She sings in Arabic, Standard Arabic, French, and English, even opening her concert with spoken poetry.
Then on to Dar Tazi
A short walk and an egg/fried mashed potato (makuda) sandwich away, and we were entering Dar Tazi for the first of the week's Sufi Nights. One of the many well-known and recognizable Moroccan Sufi poems filled the air of the open garden as we followed the paths to this year's seating space.
The Sufi Brotherhood performing were from the Harakiyya Zawiya in Safi.
Accompanying the chanted poetry, the group included two percussionists, a keyboard, 'ud, violin, and cello. This gave it the full sound of more "Eastern" Arabic classical musics, but with the definitive Moroccan munshid (chanter) textures that pervade these festivals. They closed after some gracious words with "Fi Aishiya" (In the Evening), another well known text, and the crowd stood, with most Moroccans singing along.
Sunday's Free Concerts
Sunday's free performances should be similarly enthralling, as Boujloud hosts Nass al-Ghiwane, easily the most famous popular music group in Morocco. Beginning in the 70s and drawing on a variety of regional styles, they broke the ground for all the musicians that followed (and they are still revered as such). I recently had the opportunity to see them perform in Rabat (with Saida Fikri, nonetheless), and the degree of respect given to Omar Sayyed, their lead singer, by the crowd is worth the visit.
The evening at Dar Tazi will feature the Darqawiyya Brotherhood from Essaouira. I had the chance to speak with their muqaddam (the group's leader) this afternoon. He was gentle, generous, and excited about the performance. Music from the Darqawiyya tradition is present in so many of Morocco's other brotherhoods, from the Aissawa to the Gnawa, forming an important part of the country's spiritual, and entertainment, life. See you there, insha'allah.
Photographs: Chris Witulski (click images to enlarge)