|The crowd at Dar Tazi for the first of the Sufi Nights|
Hajj Muhammad Bennis led the Tariqa Skalliyya in a beautiful evening of Sufi samā` wa madiḥ. Samā` wa madiḥ translates as audition and praise and refers to poetry that is recited, chanted or sung in order to exalt and praise God and the Prophet Muhammad. Sufis gather to chant these poems in order to reach inner states that bring them closer to God and the Prophet.
|Hajj Muhammad Bennis (left) and his brother `Abd al-Fettaḥ Bennis|
Hajj Muhammad is one of the most important munshid (Sufi singer) in Fez and has been promoting Sufi samā` for years by performing, recording, and teaching young singers. His voice and knowledge are much in demand here, and therefore he does not limit himself to one tariqa (Sufi order). In his poetic way of speaking he told me, “like a bird that is not confined to one tree, I sing with many different orders here in Fez.”
Hajj Muhammad led the group in selections by poets such as Imam al-Ḥaraq and al-Shushtri. The latter is famous for his Andalusian poetry widely used in both samā` and Moroccan Andalusian music called al-ala here in Fez. Hajj Muhammad announced at the beginning of the concert that the group would perform the poetry in the old style using only voices and no instruments.
Using rhythms from the Moroccan Andalusian repertoire, the group began slow and gradually picked up the tempo until they reached a lively pace. Some of the highlights of the evening were the vocal solos executed by Hajj Muhammad’s brother `Abd al-Fettaḥ Bennis. With a beautiful and powerful voice he repeated lines of poetry, expertly modulating through the Andalusian melodic modes.
This type of Andalusian Sufi samā` is very beautiful and contemplative and the audience sat on rugs and listened intently. Some Moroccans called out “Allah!” when a soloist finished a particularly beautiful passage where poetry and melody were combined to create a transcendent space.
|Hajj Muhammad Bennis|
Story and photographs: Phil Murphy
The Sufi Nights continue tonight 23.00 @ Dar Tazi – free entry
Tonight: Tariqa Sharqawiyya (Bejaad)
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