The Festival of Sufi Culture opened with a shower of rain and closed with a deluge, but the days in between were full of music. The undulating a capella harmonies of Tariqa Charqawiyya of Jazuliyya-Shadhiliyya and Tariqa Boutichichiyya from Qadiri; the boisterous, verging on Bollywood, of New Delhi’s Nidhamouddine Brotherhood, and the orchestrated Dervish dancing of Tariqa Khalwatiyya from Turkey, with a stunning performance in the final concert by a collective of singers and musicians from Moroccan-Andalouse groups from around Morocco. Philip Murphy has been covering the Festival for The View From Fez, and offers his review of the sixth year.
‘The music has been really varied and it shows the differences in some of the practises of the tariqat, for example, the Tariqa Khalwatiyya had a small orchestra, two percussion players on the frame drum, an oud (lute), kemenche (Turkish-style bowed fiddle that is rests on the knee), a reed flute, called a nay, and a kanun (lap zither). They also had singer, called a munshid in Morocco. The group from India also had instrumentation (harmonioum, tabla). One the other hand, the Moroccaan groups just had vocals, although in the Charqawiyya the drummer was beating on a small ottoman for percussion, which was interesting, but other than that it’s just been vocals.
It’s not strange that in a celebration of Sufi culture the music should be so different, because the beliefs and practises of Sufisim itself are so different. They are really varied around different parts of the world, so it’s not unusual to see these very different practises, some of which use instruments, some of which don’t.
Both of the Moroccan groups, the Charqawiyya and the Boutichichiyya were vocal groups, and I particularly like the Boutichichiyya because the singers, the various munshid in the group, there were a number of them who were really virtuosic singers. I could hear a lot of the eastern-Arabic macam modal system which is not common in Morocco. At different times different people would take solo parts, called mawwal, a form of improvised singing where they use poetry and improvise melodic passages using words that have already been written down. Those were really good. These singers were really, really good, with a great command of the macam. It was really great to hear them improvising on the poetry. For me the singers of the Boutichichiyya was one of the best parts, simply because of the mawal.
The first night was really energetic, possibly because of the kawali music played by the Indian group from New Delhi, the Nidhamouddine Brotherhood. The music just tends to be energetic, driving, rhythmic, so it’s always a crowd pleaser, and it’s become really big in the world music market. Those guys are also completely virtuosic, but it was fantastic to hear such incredible Moroccan-Andalouse music performed the way it was at the Jnan Palace on the last night.
Photos by Derek Workman
The View From Few would like to thank Philip Murphy for his insight into the intricacies of Sufi music. It is one thing to enjoy music simply because it sounds delightful, but it is something entirely different comprehend how it interacts with the Sufi and Moroccan Culture. Thanks Philip.