Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hamadcha Sufi Brotherhood and Dj ClicK at the Fes Festival

Monday 10th June’s free evening concert in Boujloud Square featured Fez Hamadcha Sufi Brotherhood in collaboration with Dj ClicK, from France, with an opening set by Mauritanian griot Coumbane Mint Ely Warakane and her group

The audience drifting into the square, socialising before the show, were met by dramatically billowing red clouds of stage smoke, outlining the centre stage DJ desk, wittily emblazoned ‘CLICK HERE’.

Front stage, delicate long necked stringed instruments (ardin - Moorish harp) and embroidered cushions awaited Coumbane Mint Ely Warakane, who took the stage confidently, giving generously of her robust voice and warm personality, powerfully playing with the flowing interactions, shifting polyrhythms and musical storytelling of the griot tradition.

The group had played an intimate and successful concert the previous day under the trees at Batha Museum, where one audience member described her trio of indigo-clad backing singers as ‘blue birds fallen from heaven’.

However the group did not seem to quite ignite the audience in this larger space. Perhaps this was due to the group’s being unfamiliar to local audiences, singing primarily in Hassani language. Perhaps it was simply the experience of ‘support acts’ worldwide; that no matter how good they are, much of the crowd is waiting for someone else.

There had been a ‘buzz’ about this event in the days leading up, and during the short interval, crowd chanting reminiscent of a football game warmed the scene for the well staged arrival of veteran world music collaborator Dj ClicK and the Hamadcha, whoses even red clad members, led led by the master Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi, bore candles onto a darkened stage.

Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi salutes the crowd

After their introductory chant, Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi enthusiastically took to his role as lead singer and MC for the mixed set, which started rousingly; with performers jumping, the crowd singing along and Dj ClicK’s booming beats settling in like a solid heart beat. This new collaboration seemed to be off to a fine start. Another local favourite,  Frederic Calmes was in fine form.

Frederic Calmes in action

Asked what was the benefit of adding electronic beats and sounds to traditional Sufi music, Mar Cristina, ClicK's tour manager explained,

‘He has previously worked with Flamenco, Korean, Brazilian and a lot with Balkan musicians, through 12 recorded albums and extensive live work and world tours. This is a first time collaboration with Hamadcha - though previously he’s worked with Gnawa musicians here in Morocco. We hope that this mixing with traditional music will appeal to the youth, so that culture does not get stopped at one point.’

Looking around the crowd, it was noticeable that much of the audience was indeed young. Many in the front rows were in fact still children; out with their parents to enjoy the new experiences that the Sacred Music Festival is making available to the people of Fes every night this week.

The first songs in the set remained dynamic, showcasing various Moroccan instruments including flute and 3 stringed gambry, while ClicK added live sonics with mouth harp.

However, as the set progressed, the initial sense of excitement seemed to flatten a little, as if the too-regular electronic beat was tying down the energy of the Hamadcha’s melodic and rhythmic repetitions, rather than allowing them to soar.

The newness of the collaboration sometimes felt evident. In particular the fifth song seemed uncertain; as if the musicians were waiting for ‘something to happen’, someone to take the lead towards a fresh musical direction that was never quite travelled.

ClicK meets Hamadcha face to face

Overall though, ClicK’s experience in matching beat to the rhythms of traditional music, Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi's powerful voice and stage presence, and the skill of the Hamadcha musicians saw the set through.

After that first dull patch, Dj ClicK kicked into an assertive but ‘spacey’ soundscape which was matched and shaped by the clear call of the rhita, an authoritative, strident and penetrating horn, alternating with a confident group chant.

Questioned leaving the show, some of the young, modernly presented and musically alert youth who had come to see this innovative approach to music they know well gave mixed reactions.

‘No, we’re not staying’ said one group, ‘don’t like DJ, we don’t need a DJ’

Hicham, on the other hand, a Fes born and dreadlocked musician who now based in Essouira, was happier with his evening.

‘Nice he said with a big smile, ‘that was very, very nice.”

So where was he going now?

‘To Dar Tazi for the Sufi music.. I play gimbri and guitar. Moroccan music is good. Western music is good. Music is good. See you there.’

A section of the vast crowd at Boujloud

Perhaps the enduring image of this event was the initial one: brave and fragile handheld candles on high tech stage on a windy night; small sparks that could develop over time into a light to unite us into the future.

Text : Gabe Monson
Photographs: Vanessa Bonnin, Gabe Monson

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Ardamus said...

Wow.. I don't know if the Muslims allowed to hear music using DJ or something like that.

What a great festival.

nice to reading your blog,

Driss said...

LOL - Morocco is not Afghanistan under the Taliban. They have every kind of music here.