Friday, June 14, 2013

Music for the People - Fes Festival Free Concert with Abdallah al Makhtoubi and Mohammed Bajeddoub

Abdallah al Makhtoubi
Mohammed Bajeddoub,
The Fes Festival in the City continues to be a huge drawcard. On the sixth night of free evening concerts in Place Boujloud, presented by the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, the largely local audience was able to enjoy much loved music in warm surroundings.
Whereas previous evenings had been chilly, or sometimes musically challenging, this balmy night was honoured to witness two respected musical masters of Andalusian Arabic song coming together to share superb selection of sacred music and love songs

Abdallah al Makhtoubi, a young singer from Meknes, opened the evening with an exuberant set of rhythmically interesting and sincerely delivered modern religious songs. The audience was completely warmed up and cheering by the time the great vocal master and poetic composer Mohammed Bajeddoub joined him on stage.

‘I love Fes,’ Mohammed Bajeddoub sang as an opening, with exquisite phrasing that captured the audience immediately.‘Am I welcome here?’

The crowd roared its approval, and an exhilarating, sometimes majestic, evening really took off.

Bajeddoub, the old master, had been mentored by great masters in his youth, in his hometown of Safi on the Moroccan Atlantic coast and later in Sale and Marrakesh. For many decades he has been considered a master of Arab-Andalusian religious song. He did not hold back on this night, as he joined in praise and musical celebration with the young master Abdallah al Makhtoubi.

Their powerful voices were ably backed by a versatile small orchestra of keyboards, strings, accordion, wooden flute, backing singers; and a ‘world music’ rhythm section ranging from Moroccan/Arabic percussion to drum kit and congas.

These singers did not need stagecraft to ignite their audience or bring the songs to life. In simple white gowns, they mostly sat front stage, rarely smiling, only sometimes rising to clap and gesture.

However this was not a solemn event. The joy was in sharing the music, which transcended language. Even non-Arabic speakers felt moved to respond, hearing such glorious voices and instrumentalist trading and elaborating poetic phrases against diverse and driving Andalusian rhythms.

The sound, excellently mixed, could be heard clearly right across the large space of Place Boujloud, drawing in crowds who continued to arrive even after midnight.

Old master - young master 

Local audiences for these concerts, while musically discerning, are also out for a night with their friends and family. As well as feasting on music, families and groups of youth stroll, gather, and take time to snack. Mobile stalls provide savory meat or chickpea rolls, roast nuts, juices and the local favourite, mint tea. Children play with balloons or footballs, launch glowing toys across the space, and dance whenever they are moved to do so.

The more attentive crowds thickly line the front fences, absorbed in the music, singing and clapping along, sometimes with musical precision, sometimes more exuberantly.

Over the previous nights, groups of lads around the sound desk had struck up some mildly competitive chanting, reminiscent of football crowds.

Mehde, Fes based band liason and music fan, explained:

‘Sometimes they are outdoing each other saying congratulations in a Moroccan way I don’t know how to translate. Sometimes they are saying more! One night some boys were saying 'Give us Moroccan music, we are Moroccans!' But mostly they are just having fun.’

Tonight there were no complaints. This night was definitely Moroccan and proudly so. As Houda, a young Fassi woman said, ‘This is the first year I’ve come out to these free Festival events. Isn’t that funny! I live here and have known of this Festival for many years. But normally I don’t think much about Moroccan music. I study English literature and want to learn about interesting things outside my own culture.’

‘I am here now because two foreign guests staying at the Riad where I work asked me to come with them. Being here with guests helps me appreciate Moroccan music more. When I see people coming from other places to enjoy it I realise how interesting it is.’

Well done, Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, for bringing people out, bringing people together and bringing great music to the people.

Text and photographs: Gabe Monson 

Friday and Saturday night will be big events at Boujloud with Nass L'Ghiwan and Dominique A on Friday and Karim Ziad followed by the legendary Hamid Kasri on Saturday. Expect a huge crowd! 

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

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Qu'entendez-vous par l'expression "Music for the People" ? Voulez-vous dire "'Musique pour la populace" ?
Dans cette perspective comment qualifier l'auditoire de la musique payante? Musique pour les étrangers?
Possible... dans la mesure où l'élite locale profite largement des invitations gratuites...