Friday, April 13, 2012

Fez Sufi Festival day two

To enjoy the concerts held each evening during the Festival all you need to do is simply let your emotions join in and express yourself in your own way, but it can also help if you understand the philosophy behind the performance. Philip Murphy is an anthropologist and music-ethnologist at the University of California on a Fulbright scholarship to Fez to research Sufi music. He explains the samaâ.

‘The Samaà is a form of Sufi music, and the literal translation from Arabic is audition, to listen or to hear, but with spiritual connotations. It also refers to a ritual taking place in the zawiya, Arabic for the corner of a Sufi house or meeting place, which could be attached to a Mosque, and which would indicate that the original samaâ used to meet in a corner. Samaa is something that happens in the zawiya but is now becoming part of these cultural festivals. It was never really a performance for outsiders, it was more for the Sufi’s themselves, but has now become a staged thing that has entered the world music market and festival circuits. It seems that it is a very personal celebration between the group themselves but it has also taken on the modern role as a public performance of what they do. There are some differences, for example with the Moroccan-Andalusian style there will usually be some kind of orchestra, but in the zawiya the typical way of doing it is without instruments, so it’s often just vocalising.

The samaâ isn’t really considered singing, it’s more melodic vocalising. It has been called chant, but it can be translated in different ways. The word is inshad in Arabic, which can be translated as chant or melodic vocalising, it’s distinct from singing, which has other connotations. To our ears it’s very melodic and the melodic rules, the ways that you develop melody are similar for both, but it has to do with place, time, the role of music, it’s so very difficult to give an exact definition.

Sufism tends to be very focussed on the prophet Mohammed. Muslims are also, but Sufism tends to prophet centred. A lot of the poetry they focus on in samaâ is about the prophet, for example, The Burda – The Poem of the Cloak, by the poet Busiri, which is a very famous Sufi text.

The word tariqa in the name of a group, such as Tariqa Qadiriyyaq Boutchichiyya, literally means ‘the way’. In this context it means the Sufi way, literally means a path, a road, which, when applied to Sufism will relate to a specific order, but they think of it as the way to God. A lot of Sufis will say there are many paths, and this is our path.’

Saturday, April 14, 2012

10am: Conference: "Can one teach knowledge? "
4pm: Roundtable: "From Eva Vitray Meyerovitch reader of Iqbal: Islam in Motion"
5.30: Recital The Hikams of Rabiaa.
8.30pm: Closing Concert: Music and Arab-Andalusian Sufi brotherhoods of Samaâ

Photos by Derek Workman


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