Monday, April 15, 2013

Fes Festival of Sufi Culture ~ Day Two

The morning Round Table

The subject under discussion was "Spiritual Heritages of the Orient and Occident".
Speakers included Michael Barry, Professor in Islamic Civilisation at Princeton University. All gave their views on the influence of Islam, and how the traditions of different religions had influenced one another and become interwoven over the centuries.

Professor Michael Barry of Princeton University

Professor Barry, who is an expert on Afghanistan and spent more than a decade working there in humanitarian aid, pointed out that at the heart of all the great religions is the notion that, "the creator and the created are necessary to one another. This is pure logic."

Afternoon concert with Ihsan Rmiki

"In the streets of Ksar el Kebir, there was the riad of my childhood, in which grew up all my passions. Around that central fountain, orange trees, jasmine scented hallways, taming the sun and sheltering stray birds. I remember all those mornings ... their songs were the beginning of my days, I pushed a huge wooden door carved with arabesques and strolled inside of the riad. It is the poetry of those small moments that I sing today poems. ... "

The performances of Ihsan Rmiki of Sama'a and Madih have been described as "wine to drink for a soul in search of ecstasy". She owes her musical knowledge to the teaching she received in the conservatories of El Qasr Al-Kabir in the north of Morocco and in Marrakesh.

Ihsan Rmiki loves singing mouwachahates Al Andalus, an Arabic musical tradition that evokes the mythical cities of the East: Aleppo, Damascus and Cairo. Her inspiration is inhabited by the "Bustan" - the garden symbol of Arab-Andalusia.

In Morocco, the garden has a secular history that begins in the twelfth century and has its roots in the Persian Islamic tradition. At once sensual and mystical, the Arab-Andalusian garden, often jealously guarded by walls that cut off the noises of the world and abrasive intrusions of the sun, seems to want to echo a vision of paradise.

Ihsan Rmiki appeared with the group "Zaman al Wasi" with Thami Belhouat and treated the audience to a fine concert. Her music is easily approachable for Europeans unaccustomed to the subtleties of Arabo-Andalucian music. Tending towards the popular rather than the heavily classical, its lyrics are drawn from old poets and many of the songs were familiar to the local Moroccan audience.

Rmiki sings with evident emotion, clasping her hands as if in prayer, her flawless melodical voice soaring and dipping like the swifts over the Medina ramparts at dusk.

The Evening Concert 

An amazing amalgam of three Sufi Brotherhoods - Tariqa Wazzaniyya, Tariqa Saqilliyya and Tariqa Harraqiyya.

Once again the venue at the Batha Museum was a superb setting with the added bonus of balmy weather and a new moon. A last minute decision to bring the Sufi Brotherhoods down from the stage and on to the carpet in order to increase participation was a sound one.

What was moving about the participation is the age range of the audience. From youngsters, teenagers through to the elderly - all are engaged in an obviously living tradition. They sang along, they knew the words of all the chants and, by the expressions of bliss on their faces, they were sharing the baraka (the blessing) transmitted by the event.

Another interesting side note is the effect of the music on visitors to Morocco who are experiencing this style of music for the first time. The initial reaction is a lack of comprehension and a period of what one visitor said was the "musical equivalent of valium". Yet as the evening progresses the music, as it did tonight, reaches out and touches the listeners who rise to their feet and join the audience in what another visitor describes as  being "blissed out".

"Blissed-out" Australians!
Festival Director Faouzi Skali - totally involved in the music

The Wazzaniyya Brotherhood is one of the major Sufi groups in Morocco, and was established in 1678. They once played an important political role, and still have a wide following across the country. This was evidenced by the large number of Wazzaniyya supporters and devotees in the crowd at the Batha Museum on Sunday evening.

The Wazzaniyya, like the Charqawiyya, are an offshoot of the Jazuliyya-Shadhiliyya. They were founded by Moulay (saint) ‘Abd Allah al-Sharif (d.1678), who had been a member of the Jazuliyya order, and unlike the others take their name not from their master or founder, but from the town in which they are based: Wazzan, located in the south-west of Morocco and founded by al-Sharif in the first half of the 17th Century, and which, according to Halima Baali-Cherif, “is considered sacred to this day”. It is known by many Moroccans as “Dar Dmana” (The Abode of Protection).

Grandfather and grandson together on stage

Tariqa Wazzaniyya along with the Saqilliyya and Harraqiyya presented 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. The Samā` was sung in the normal fashion, alternating between soloists and the entire group. The effect of great solo voices rising above the background chanting was moving and powerful.  It is also usual that it is unaccompanied by instruments. This style of Sufi chant is deeply rooted in the melodic and rhythmic modes of Moroccan Andalusian music.

A Harraqiyya text from 1830

Tariqua Harraqiyya are a Sufi Brotherhood founded in the early 1800s by Muhammad al-Harraq al-Hasani al-Alami, pupil of al-Darqawi. An anthology of Sufi texts (letters and poems) of Muhammad b. Muhammad al-Harraq al-Hasani al-Alami survives to this day - it is dated 1830.

Monday's programme: 

10am round table discussion on the universality of spiritual experience
4pm:  round table discussion on the poetry of Sufism
8.30 pm Tariqa Qadiriyya Boutchichiyya

See our full Sufi Festival coverage

Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five
Day Six
Day Seven
Final Night 

Photographs and text: Sandy McCutcheon & Suzanna Clarke for The View from Fez Additional notes: Fitzroy Morrissey

Print Friendly and PDF

No comments: