Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Songs for Fez - Free Concert

Musicians Jesse Mandell, Hosna el Hadi and Noureddine Ismag
Three musicians combine their talents to create original and enchanting sounds this Saturday December 3 at 7pm in a free concert at a new venue in the old Medina.
At first glance, a keyboard player, an African drummer and an oud player from Fez may not appear to have much in common - until you hear them play together. The result is magical.

In the concert Songs for Fez, Jesse Mandell from Minnesota, Nourredine Ismag from Cornwall in Canada and Hosna el Hadi from Fez will playing together and solo, while photographer Omar Chennafi and members of the ALC-ALIF Photography Club provide a series of images as visual metaphors for what is happening on stage.

"We play together at the beginning and end of the hour long concert, and in the middle we will play solo pieces," says Nourredine. "We start with a piece Jesse wrote."

Jesse's opening piece is influenced by Brasilian Bossa Nova, and later they play one of his Andalusian style pieces. The twenty-two year old is currently a student at the Arabic Language Institute in Fez. "I've played the piano since I was five," Jesse says. "I grew up learning classical and jazz and then really got into ragtime when I was fourteen...All the styles reflect different emotions and have a really different feel." Nowadays Jesse meshes ragtime, rock and hip hop to create his own unique style of playing.

Nourredine, 30, is also in Fez temporarily, accompanying his wife, who is studying at ALIF. "I originally come from Marrakesh and I've been living in Canada for four years," he says. Nourredine started playing djembe and conga drums at school and later joined a band called General Electryc, which has become well known around Ottawa and Toronto for their upbeat mix of blues, jazz and funk. "The first time I played with Jesse and Hosna it sounded really good, so we decided to do something together," he says.

Hosna, 27, is a music teacher based in Fez. She has been a soloist on the oud and guitar since she was thirteen. "I love it...I've done a lot of concerts," she said. While Hosna often performs classical oud, she is enjoying the musical collaboration with Jesse and Nourredine. "I like playing jazz and lots of other types of music," she says. "It feels more free."

Photos will be projected behind the musicians as they play. "Everyone has selected photos they want to play with (when they do their solo pieces), says photographer and concert organiser Omar Chennafi. "They help to create an atmosphere; a feeling. The elements come together to create harmony."

Songs for Fez is sponsored by the American Language Center and Arabic Language Institute in Fez & Cafe Clock. The concert will be held in the newly renovated riad which is the Sidi Muhammad ben Yousef cultural complex, in Layounne in the Fes Medina.

To get there, go down the hill beyond Riad Alkantara and keep turning left. Go via Oued Souafine and left onto Akbat El Firane. The complex is on the left, just down the hill from the College Sidi Muhammad El Fassi. However, you can accompany a guide - see below.

The free concert, Songs for Fez, is on Saturday December 3 at 7pm at Sidi Muhammad ben Yousef cultural complex (open air). To get there, meet in front Hotel Batha at 6:30 and a guide will show you the way.

Story: Suzanna Clarke   Photos: Omar Chennafi


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