Afternoon Round Table at Batha Museum - Sufism and Heritage
The afternoon Round Table on Sufism and Heritage threw up some fascinating ideas, conundrums and paradoxes.
|Faouzi Skali - in fine form|
Festival Director Faouzi Skali was in fine form and obviously enjoying a topic close to his heart. He made many important points including an interesting observation that with modernisation came decadence. He then argued that decadence comes as both active and passive. Passive decadence is insidious and hard to combat because it allows us to live in the moment without connection to cultural roots.
Musician and anthropologist Frédéric Calmès had some strongly held ideas about the "folkloreisation" of Moroccan culture. He tracked the history from the 1960s when, with mass media and television, the demand was for the new. At that time, he points out, the Sufi Brotherhoods were seen as no longer important and having no place in the modern world. Modernisation at the time shamed the Brotherhoods as being past their time.
|Frédéric Calmès - the paradox of modernisation|
Then, in the 1980s, with new media and the growth of the Internet, grew a hunger for culture and the mass media began to rediscover cultural heritage. Sufi group members began to perform like musicians. They had changed, but at least they were still alive.
The paradox of modernisation is that while it nearly killed off the old Sufi Brotherhoods, it was also responsible for their continued existence.
The Hamadcha Brotherhood, who after WWII numbered well over a thousand in Fez alone, was reduced to today's number of just twenty members. Then young people started to join the brotherhood and the Hamadcha are still doing ceremony and performance with festivals such as the Fes Festival of Sufi Culture assisting the process. Now there is interest from even younger members. A group who started their experience as young as eight are now in their late teens and forming a core of members for the future. The Hamadcha may be small, but they exist and keep the traditions alive.
Art at the Sufi Festival
While at the Sufi Festival Batha Museum venue, do check out the work of Mohammed Mikou.
The Fez based artist is self-taught and says he finds spiritual sustenance in his work. "All of my art pieces reflect a marriage between colour and the permanent existence of the all-powerful God."
Evening Concert - Tariqa Charqawiyya
The undulating a capella harmonies of the fourteen men in the Tariqa Charqawiyya were warmly welcomed on yet another gloriously balmy evening in Fez. The standing room only crowd were treated to an exuberant taste of joy and high energy Sufi music that was as infectious as it was uplifting. Though the soloist's voices were not as exquisite as those of the previous night's concert from the Tariqa Boutchichiya, they made up for it with performances of such contagious enthusiasm that the audience were captivated.
The Charqawiyya were aided by two percussionist who drove the music along with simple drums. Other than these muted drums, the only accompaniment to the pulsing a cappella was the clapping of hands, first by the ensemble, and gathering pace as the audience joined in. The high voltage energy was such that the crowd on three occasions were on the feet, giving the security guards a work out trying to keep them off the performance area. The overwhelmingly Moroccan crowd knew the songs, knew the lyrics and applauded generously whenever a soloist delivered what they had come to hear.
Again it was heartening to see so many young Moroccans in the audience responding to the music in a manner normally associated with, as one audience member observed, a rock concert. It is hard to imagine a situation in a Western church where the congregation are so impressed with the choir that they sing along and take endless photographs.
According to audience members that talked with The View from Fez, this was the highlight of the festival to date. It is hard to argue with that.
The Charqawiyya are a branch of the Shadhiliyya, a North African order out of which many of the present day Moroccan Sufi brotherhoods have sprung. The Charqawiyya are in actuality an offshoot of a prior order annexed from the Shadhiliyya, namely the Jazuliyya, and take their name from Muhammad al-Sharqi (d.1601), a descendent of the 2nd caliph, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab. Sometimes the Charqawiyya are known by the full name: Charqawiyya Jazuliyya-Shadhiliyya.
Based historically in Boujad, a Moroccan town bordering the Atlas mountains, they are known for their political activism, beginning in the 17th Century with their support for Sultan Moulay al-Rashid (d.1672), the founder of the ‘Alaouite dynasty of Moroccan kings, which still rules to this day.
Click on pictures to enlarge
Text and photographs: Sandy McCutcheon.
Additional notes: Fitzroy Morrissey
10am Round Table - Sufism and Contemporary Thought
4pm Round Table - Sufism and Literature
8.30 Concert - Samāa with Tariqa Rifaiyya from Palestine
See our full Sufi Festival coverage