Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fes Festival Nights in the Medina ~ Part Two

The second Nights in the Medina was a wonderful melange of music. From the eclectic Rosemary Standley and Dom La Nena, through the superb singing by Samira Kadiri, to the romp that was the El Gusto Orchestra from Algeria that had the local Moroccans pouring into the Batha Museum.  The View from Fez team reports

Rosemary Standley and Dom La Nena - France
Birds on a wire
Rosemary’s Songbook

A poetic and musical journey from the profane to the sacred, is presented by Moriarty singer Rosemary Standley and cellist Dom La Nena, including baroque music, songs by Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Dylan and Fairuz.

The universe of the young American Rosemary Standley is musically rare: she is a bohemian 'traveller' who wanders the great musical spaces of our planet. Originally inspired by this Beat generation quest and by the 'hobo' myth of Kerouac and Dylan, Rosemary Standley has great knowledge of the roots of American tradition, from folk to blues to country. From there, she finds her way into other musical horizons, lyrical or classical, from Monteverdi to Henry Purcell. This constitutes a veritable Songbook, a kind of intimate musical journal into which this show, created for the Cité de la Musique in Paris, offers an insight.

Cellist Dom La Nena impresses with the accuracy of her ear and the grace of her playing. Before she was 20 years old, she had accompanied Jane Birkin as well as Piers Faccini, as well as setting to music Jean Genet's The Prisoner Condemned to Death by Etienne Daho and Jeanne Moreau. She has also worked with Camille, Sophie Hunger and Coming Soon. From her native Brazil to France by way of Argentina, she easily overcomes the obstacles separating classical and popular music.

And so these wandering musical troubadours lead us on a path that is poetic, fragile, intimate and profound, full of the charm of a unique musical moment.

The Concert:

Tonight’s performance by Rosemary Standley and Dom La Nena epitomised the essence of the Sacred Music Festival, bringing together disparate musical styles seamlessly and joyfully, showing the universality of music.

Standley, who is the lead singer for the band Moriarty, also crossed multiple borders with her language abilities singing in French, Arabic, English and Spanish.

Accompanied ably by Dom La Nena – a successful musician in her own right – the concert showed two free spirits exploring a timeless repertoire performed with irresistible lightness and humour.

The performance began with both women wearing cloaks of gold, Standley pacing a slow circuit through the audience as she sang of love in French. The cloaks came off in the second piece to reveal quirky costumes of green dresses with scalloped wired hems and red detailing.

The second song was Leonard Cohen’s signature number Bird on the Wire from which the ensemble derives its name.

Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free…

Sung sweetly, this simple country song then switched to a baroque piece by Claudio Monteverdi – setting the scene for an eclectic medley of music interpreted with their own signature style. We had embarked on a musical pilgrimage with an unknown destination.

To illustrate the diversity of the music covered in ‘Rosemary’s Songbook’, Standley went from Kingston Town by Harry Belafonte, to O Solitude by Henry Purcell, to Duerme Negrito (a popular Latin American folkloric lullaby), via Tom Wait’s All the World is Green, through Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies/Little Sparrow (an American folk music ballad, originating from the Appalachian region) to an encore number of Everyday by Buddy Holly, and this is by no means an exhaustive list of all that was performed.

Simply listing the songs does not do the performance justice however, with both women displaying a range of musical talents on a variety of instruments such as the cello, drums, mouth harp and even a tambourine beaten with a plastic banana!

The inclusion of a plastic banana perfectly illustrates the humour that infused moments in the show, to which the crowd responded with amusement. They were equally responsive to the more poignant moments too, faces enraptured as Standley’s voice, pure and clear, perfectly matched the achingly beautiful cello of Dom La Nena.

La Nena showed great innovation in the way she played her cello, at times plucking the strings or banging her bow across them, using the soundboard as a drum, or using live looping to layer sounds to great effect. At the end of the set Standley walked off stage still singing and La Nena surprised the crowd by standing and walking away with her cello still playing – a loop she had just recorded.

“Thank you for this evening, it is marvellous to be here, at this festival, thank you very much,” Standley said, prompting a standing ovation from the audience.

The women returned for their final numbers and finished by getting the crowd to participate by clapping with two fingers as they meandered slowly through the audience singing “Every day it’s getting closer, going faster than a rollercoaster” before disappearing out the back door…

A rollercoaster of musical styles it was indeed.

Crowd reaction:

“I am so inspired! I was impressed with how flawlessly she sang in so many different languages. And they had such a great rapport.”
Maryam Montague, USA/Marrakech

“It just made you smile from beginning to end.”
Michelle, USA

Text and photographs: Vanessa Bonnin

Samira Kadiri – Morocco: PREMIERE, Morocco – Spain – Italy – Greece – Armenia

Samira Kadiri : voice, composition
Nabil Akbib : artistic direction, violin
Loannis Papaioannou : arrangements, bouzouki
Andranik Miradyan : duduk
Younes Fakhar : oud
Noureddine Acha : ney flute
Mohammed Rochdi Mfarej : kanoun (dulcimer)
Franco Molinari : double bass
Lopez Aniol : percussion
Amin Asoufi : percussion

Tonight’s performance at Dar Mokri showed audiences that Samira Kadiri is much more than a great singer.  Yes, she looked every inch the performer in a bottle green taffeta gown with matching full length velvet coat trimmed in cream and gold brocade and fastened with a diamanté and pearl encrusted belt. But many less glamorous hours in libraries researching the history of the Moriscos, Muslim exiles from Spain, provided background and content for her songs tonight.

Dar Mokri’s decor with its elaborate carved wood and metal screens shared by so much of Spain was a perfect fit for this show. It was a full house with the drained central fountain accommodating those unable to find a seat elsewhere.

The band of eight musicians took to the stage for the intro, producing a bold sound briefly softened with a violin solo then reverting to the full shebang. So with musicians and audience warmed up nicely Samira took her place on stage.

Her voice was rich and clear and held its own with the often gutsy accompaniment including two percussionists and a thumping contrabasse. The second song began slowly then picked right up with Samira clicking her fingers and the audience spontaneously clapping along.

With each round of applause she gestured left and right to include her band.

The verses of one Sufi song she sang with a lilting quality but the chorus sung enthusiastically by the band had a muscular marching beat that made everyone sit up and pay attention.

Five band members got to sit back and enjoy an exciting play off between Aniol Lopez de Moragas on the Persian frame drum, Franco Molinari on the contrabasse and Younes Fakhar on the oud.

Then it was all hands back on deck for the final rousing number when the audience’s clapping in time to the music morphed into equally rousing applause to finish.

Text: Stephanie Clifford-Smith
Photographs: Suzanna Clarke

El Gusto - Algeria
And the lute is a king who advances without haste
leading his soldiers who follow him closely
Ibn Zeydoun

To everyone's surprise the concert by the wonderfully named El Gusto orchestra did not start with a bang. It started in a slightly sombre but ultimately touching fashion.

The introductions were made and then two men came to the stage - a white shirted pianist and a youngish man in a sober suit and silver tie. The pianist sat and his companion walked slowly to the microphone, adjusted his music and began to sing an old, slow, Jewish melody.

After a time tambourine and tabla players appeared and the tempo picked up.

Then a new singer, older but similarly dapper, walked up to a second microphone. He could have been a used car salesman. But when he opened his mouth his mellow voice with a gentle resonance was superb. His presence lifted the younger man's performance and the duet that ensued was a gem - one singing in Hebrew, one in Arabic. The cantor and the muezzin, together in a wonderful musical moment.

But that was as serious as it got. To tumultuous applause the full orchestra came on stage and it was on for young and old. They played with gusto and infectious enthusiasm and the audience, a majority of whom were Moroccans, could not get enough of it.

A sparkling but short mandolin solo followed. Then it was into the Chaâbi sound that had almost all of the large Moroccan contingent in the audience singing or clapping along.

In the introduction we were told that El Gusto, the Spanish word for taste, travelled with the Moors to North Africa and, as with many such Spanish words, became part of the Algerian dialect. In the language of Algiers El Gusto has become the perfect way to express happiness and joie de vivre. But for an English speaker "playing with gusto" is also a common expression, and this orchestra did just that.

This was not a sober, besuited Arabic orchestra, this was a bunch of musicians having a lot of fun. One by one the individual members were invited to do a small solo, but every time it quickly morphed into another Chaâbi hit.

"As-salam-o-alaikum and bienvenue"

The El Gusto sense of humour was never far away. Laughter and smiles were on everyone's faces and one particular white-haired gentleman, had the audience in stitches with is slightly mocking song about the French and his very funny self-parody in which he sang a welcome to the crowd "As-salam-o-alaikum" and morphed it into "bienvenue". All done in the style of a classical Arabic singer - ululating like a muezzin on speed

It was a night of fun and celebration with an orchestra often described as an Algerian version of the Buena Vista Social Club. The twenty or so Arab and Jewish musicians who came together some fifty years after the upheaval of Algerian independence were having a great time in Fez.

When the orchestra launched into a humorous song in Darija (Moroccan and Algerian Arabic), a man behind me managed to stifle his laughter long enough to say that this music alone was reason enough to reopen the borders with Algeria.

Too soon it was over, but, like the night before, the audience were transported, not as previously to the Upper Nile, but to the 1920s and the Casbah in Algeria. It was a great trip.

Text and photographs: Sandy McCutcheon

Coming up at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

Wednesday, JUNE 12TH

Dar Mokri  2pm- 4.30pm

Nights in the Medina - Part Three

According to Festival organisers, "technical reasons" have caused a swapping of venues for the performances of Pandit Shyam Sundar Goswami and Sacred Songs from Bhutan.

The correct information we have is:

Dar Mokri 7.30pm and 10 pm
Sacred Songs - Kingdom of Bhutan

Dar Adiyel 7.30 pm and 10 pm
Reflections of an Indian Night - India France
Pandit Shyam Sundar Goswami

Please note: 10pm concerts have not been cancelled!

Batha Museum 8.30 pm
Ana Moura – Portugal:
The fado of Lisbon

Sufi Nights at Dar Tazi

Tariqa Touhamia (Fes)
The Taibia or Touhamia were servants of the sherifs of Ouezzane, who exercised their influence in Morocco and Algeria from the 18th cent.

The Weather - Wednesday will be a warm 31 degrees Celsius (87 Fahrenheit) during the day and down to 12C (53F) at night. 

 Thursday will be hot with 34 C (93 F) with night temperatures a couple of degrees warmer.

Fes Festival Fringe program
Fes Festival Medina Map
Fes Festival Food! 
Fes Festival Site

The View from Fez is an official media partner of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

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