Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Road-trip with the Hamadcha Sufis - Part Two


11  pm
The 2012 Casablanca Malhun Festival kicked off at 11 pm with a venue packed with local families. It was a beautiful evening with pleasant temperature and a gorgeous venue. The event continued over two days and, although it was a malhun festival, it included a number of other types of music. It opened with Sufi music from performers of Ahl Touat, then we took the stage for the first of two nights of malhun poetry and songs.

Not your standard MC - she was greeted warmly by the crowd

Malhun - great music 
We were invited to share the stage with a malhun ensemble composed of musicians from across Morocco. Salé, Rabat, Oujda, Fez, and Meknes were all well represented as we gathered together to perform. Malhun, a form of sung poetry, is an old and purely Moroccan form of popular music. The songs are comprised of texts that straddle the line between Moroccan and classical registers of Arabic and can extend to 20 or 30 minutes. The backing music is not too complex, but is heavily ornamented and allows for space for people like Fouad (Philip Murphy) and Driss (Chris Witulski) to find a sweet spot.

Hamid el-Qasri playing the gimbri
We were followed by Hamid el-Qasri, the famous Gnawa fusion artist. We had heard him on the radio in the bus on the way to Casablanca, only to meet him that same evening. Illa anta fil-maghreb, f-la tistaghreb ("If you're in Morocco, never be astonished").

Members of Hamid el-Qasri's Gnawa group
Driss (Chris Witulski)  from The View from Fez with his trademark smile! 

One of the great things about a traditional music concert in Morocco, is the attention given to wearing the perfect outfit. Visually it beats the hell out of t-shirt and jeans.

Meryem Chadi, the talented young violinist from Salé
Faiçel Doukkali and Majdouline Benserhir with their ouds
The brilliant Algerian Rachid Toumi
Abd al-Wahid, playing the "hadida," an iron blade from a hoe, and Rashid
Hamid el-Qasri playing the gimbri (left) and one of his group members, 
on the quraqeb (iron castanets) performing Gnawa music
Faiçel Doukkali and Majdouline Benserhir with their ouds
One of our Fessi Hamdoushi musicians playing the ta'rija
Abd al-Latif and his darbouka

The singers

Abd ar-Rahim Amrani, the artistic director of the festival and leader of the Hamadsha of Fes
Sara Dhanna
Senae Shafira on her debut public performance
Mohamed al-Hashmi, from Algeria
the formidable Hakima Tariq - a crowd favourite
The mutual fan club of Philip Murphy, Majdouline Benserhir, and Chris Witulski
Sharqawi, Amrani, and Sara
The group that brought us so much joy
12 30 am 
The Concert finished and after the farewells it was off to change clothes and prepare for dinner which was to be served at 1.30am. What we didn't know then was that the party would continue until after 5am... and the second concert still lay ahead.



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