Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Road-trip with the Hamadcha - Part One

This week the team from The View from Fez accepted an invitation to travel with the Fez Hamadcha Sufi group.  Our destination was Casablanca, but for what exactly was not quite clear. It could have been a translation error, or simply the fact that the people we asked did not know, but the nearest we could get was "the Hamadcha are playing at something, somewhere in Casa, inshallah" - Fair enough.  Here is a timeline and photo essay.

10 am

"Assemble at R'cif in Fez and a truck will arrive."  We assemble. No truck and it is already 30 degrees Celsius.  The locals need us to have names that are easy to pronounce and remember, so The View from Fez team, Chris, Phil and Sandy, become "Driss", "Fouad" and "Haj Saladiin".

10 30 am 

Truck arrives and there are questions about how all the musicians and their luggage and instruments will fit in.  Two plastic chairs are placed in the back of the truck. Finally everyone is ready to get aboard.

Fouad (left) and Driss (right) surround Hamdoushi 'Abd al-Latif
Fouad prepares to record the gonzo road-trip - "They won't believe this back home"
Driss, upgraded to a plastic chair, relaxes while waiting for more musicians to board

11 am 
You can't travel with the Hamadcha and not have music.  The next five hours was accompanied by drumming and singing with only a stop for midday prayers. No meal breaks, of course. This is Ramadan and the next meal is about 8 hours away.

3 30 pm 
We arrive in Casablanca, outside of the busy city and in the (only slightly) quieter and older Habous quarter. Conveniently, we're going to be living and sleeping on the couches of a colonial era household around the corner from the evening's venue.

And the good news is we have found you a place to sleep ... but not yet
4 pm 
First we visit the venue, and get a surprise, this is no ordinary private party.

The central courtyard of the enormous Habous palace

4 30pm
Sound check - or as the locals call it "the balance".

5 30 pm
The director and artistic director decide they are happy and that the musicians can go and rehearse elsewhere.

The directors discuss the sound-check
Hamadcha m'qadam, Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi,  is happy
Si Mustapha Khalili, the very happy director of the festival

5 45 pm 
Rehearsal time and only two hours before we can eat...

7 45 pm
After almost 18 hours of fasting, the sight of iftar is very welcome. Within ten minutes of the call to prayer, everyone had ravished their food and adjourned to the sidewalk outside for a smoke.

9 pm
Having finally eaten and quenched our thirst, it was time to get changed and hang out for an hour chatting to locals in a cafe.

10 15 pm
At last we make it to the venue and prepare for a street parade before the concert.

The Hamadsha of Fez, including your very own View from Fez folks, prepare for the opening of the event.

10 40 pm
We hit the streets... Our Hamadsha join at least four distinct other groups to circle the streets as part of the dakhla, the entrance. The train of musicians walked out into the round about, surrounded by crowds descending from nearby cafes and swarms of press.

Time to return to the venue and for the concert to start

Part Two 


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