Alain Weber, the Festival’s artistic director, has been immersed in Arabic and Oriental folk music for well over 30 years and is delighted to be involved for the fourth year in this international event. Only hours before the opening concert of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music he spoke with Stephanie Clifford-Smith from The View from Fez.
“I’ve always had a very strong passion for oriental and Arabic music. In the late 70s I went to Egypt, discovered the music and started to manage some groups creating traditional music. I brought some to Europe then became involved in all kinds of oriental music, organising concerts and festivals in France.”
Paris-born Weber who speaks Arabic felt a huge sense of responsibility when he took the job on.
“The festival was already 15 years old when I started so it had its own unique history. The idea has always been to adapt my knowledge to the spirit of the festival, considering the political and social surroundings of the city,” he told The View from Fez.
He believes it’s important not to lose sight of the event’s significance, bringing so many spiritual and musical interests together.
“Today it might not seem so surprising the idea of combined artistic and spiritual influences and to have artistic dialogue between cultures but when the festival began it was like a revolution. We are in a Muslim country which is not so much used to other religions, even though in Morocco the Jewish faith is very well protected compared to other countries. The festival is still so popular because of the sense of liberty and freedom sharing different spiritual aspects brings.”
Fez is a logical location for an event like this, Alain believes, because it’s the main centre of Sufi and Arabic knowledge in Morocco, a heritage of which locals are justifiably proud.
“I believe in the transmission of knowledge through the oral tradition which reflects the ways of the past. Still today when you look at Berber poetry from the Atlas Mountains it’s so powerful.”
Organising this festival has involved several trips in the past year to Fez from his Paris base and he said logistics of getting musicians and their instruments from often remote places one of the biggest challenges. But on this, the first day, he’s feeling a positive sense of anticipation.
“I have a good feeling about this festival because the opening is symbolically very important and we have so many nice concerts coming throughout the week.”
Text: Stephanie Clifford-Smith
Photograph: Suzanna Clarke
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