Thursday, June 13, 2013

Syria's Assala Nasri draws huge crowd at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

Assala Nasri - Syria

Damascus-born Assala Nasri’s first success, Ouala Tssadak, soon made her a major singer in the Arab world. Then her song Ighdab, which she sang for the great Syrian poet, Nizar Kabani, led to her being regarded as one of the great artists to sing for this poet along with such luminaries as Abdelhalim Hafez, Nadjet Saghira, Fayza Ahmed, Majida Erroumi and Kazem Essahir.

For Oum Keltoum, she sang Lissa fakir, Fina ninsa edounia and Alf lila oui lila. At that time she moved frequently between Beirut and Damascus. Later she enjoyed a scintillating success in Cairo and her name was linked to the great Arab poets and composers.

In 1993, she recorded her first album in Egypt law Tiaarafou, although the young Assala was still little known. Then she continued on her artistic journey with many songs such as Ghayar Aoui, Alli gara, Rahal, El Mouchtaka, Tawàam Errouh, Albi Biértahlak, Ya Magnoun, Yamine Allah and Ya Akhi Esàa.

When Assala removed her long sleeves the audience went wild with appreciation

The Concert - 

Assala Nasri’s concert was the biggest event in crowd numbers for the Fes Festival so far. According to a number of observers, the audience had grown so large that security officials stopped a large number of people entering the venue, despite the fact they had purchased tickets. The situation was described as potentially dangerous and the question has to be asked, are the people in charge of selling tickets actually aware of the capacity of the venue? Fortunately, although many people missed out, the concert went ahead without any major problems.  For The View from Fez, Natasha Christov reports...

This was the event the doyennes of Fes had been waiting for. Dressed to the nines, Moroccan tweens, teens, desperate housewives and men of all ages stampeded to Bab Al Makina to see Syrian popstar Assala Nasri perform.

The crowd was way beyond capacity and some unlucky punters were denied entry despite holding a ticket.

In true Moroccan style, the crowd pressed forward with wild hand gestures and cries of ‘Allah!’ to security guards. It was the people's night and when one stone-faced guard caved in, a flood of feet trampled the red carpet to secure an empty space.

“Assala is a wonderful woman. I have heard her on YouTube and on the Arabic channel on television. She is beauty. Her voice speaks of the revolution in Syria and she always helps the army in their motivation,” Youssef, 28 of Fes told The View from Fez.

Immensely popular with Moroccans and Arabs the world over, Nasri has carved out a long career of catchy tunes and heartfelt ballads. Her prominence as a popstar has also impressed royalty, with the King of Bahrain awarding her Bahraini citizenship after she performed there in 2006.

Draped in a loose hot pink veil and wearing a tight gold bodice and skirt, Nasri looked every bit the veteran popstar. Her diva-like glares toward the orchestra only to pivot around with a toothy smile did nothing to subvert this idea.

When she removed the sleeves of her costume exposing bare arms, it was as if she had lowered the front of her top – older gentlemen in front row corporate seats stared cross-armed, foreheads furrowed, peering over their bifocals. Meanwhile, younger members of the audience looked down inquisitively at their own fabric-covered arms.

With a dramatic flick of her head to one side, Nasri closed her eyes tight, drew in a deep breath and started singing J’en ai Marre by Moroccan pop sensation Asma Lamnawar. The audience erupted into song, drowning out Nasri’s vocals, and Nasri happily paused to let the crowd take the chorus. As they sang, Nasri moved back, bringing her instrumentalist’s stunning electric oud into view. It was a beautiful instrument, minimalist and timeless in its design. The sound was equally astounding; layered, smooth and exotic.

A slow theatrical dab of her face and neck signalled the beginning of the next piece, and at last Nasri let her voice take centre stage. Long drawn out notes, moving through the scales showcased her vocal range and talent as a singer.

While her voice sometimes seemed a little weak during the concert (compared to other recordings heard), this melodic interlude was as strong as it was impressive. Roars of applause and “Assala! Bravo Assala!” were yelled throughout the crowd.

Stunning -  draped in a loose hot-pink veil with a tight gold metallic bodice and skirt beneath

Next, Nasri paid homage to her war-torn birthplace, singing a version of famous Syrian artist Sabah Fakhri’s Addouka al Mayass. It was synchronously powerful and very catchy, and audience members jiggled their shoulders and tapped their platform heels together. It was a nice touch, but the highlight was still to come.

As she slipped off her veil, Nasri launched into one of her biggest hits, famous love song Ya Magnoun. All around people jumped out of their seats and young girls ambled to the front to catch a glimpse of this glamazon in action. They screamed, sung, recorded footage and sung some more. Assala took this as a sign to blow kisses into the crowd, prompting more of the same. The atmosphere during this song was wonderful; even the corporate suits were eagerly clapping along.

The crowd did not hold back, yelling a constant stream of requests for their favourite song, at times drowning out the voice of Nasri herself with their emphatic sing-a-longs.

When she obliged and broke into Mab’ash Ana (‘If You Don’t Come Back To Me I Won’t Be Me’) a pained, heart-wrenching tale of love, the (mostly female) audience members sat on the edge of their seats holding their hearts and singing with all their energy.

Clapping, foot stomping, spirited ululations and collective sing-a-longs lasted the entire epic concert, which continued for well over two hours. Tonight, if the audience ruled Morocco, she would have been Queen.

At the end of the evening, nearing the end of her final song, Nasri departed into the wings. The orchestra played on, with attendees watching, unsure of what to expect. As the instrumentalists concluded, the crowd applauded, however, unlike other concerts at the 2013 Fes Festival, there was no call for encore and no rabid chanting of the artist’s name. The audience simply began to leave, and Bab Al Makina wrapped up another successful - if not overloaded - evening concert.

Text: Natasha Christov
Photographs: Suzanna Clarke

Coming up at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

Friday June 14th
Batha Museum 4pm
Françoise Atlan and the Al Quds Ensemble - Morocco Palestine

Bab Al Makina 9pm
Ladysmith Chicago Gospel Experience - South Africa – USA: PREMIERE
Leanne Faine & Favor – Chicago – USA
Ladysmith Red Lions – Ladysmith – South Africa
Bill Dickens and the Ladysmith Chicago Gospel Experience Band
Butterscotch – beatbox

Festival in the City 
Boujloud 10.30
Nass L'Ghiwan - Maroc / Dominique A - France

Sufi Nights at Dar Tazi
Tariqa Al Ajibia (Tangier) 11pm

The Weather - Friday will be a hot 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) during the day and down to 18C (64F) at night. 
Saturday will be hot with 36C (96.8 F) with night temperatures of 16C (60.8 F). Drink plenty of water! 

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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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

C'est une longue tradition marocaine! Comme dans les trains ou les bus, vous achetez votre billet mais rien ne vous garantit une place assise...
Mais quand cela arrive dans un festival bien rodé, ça devient lamentable.
J'espère que les gens ont pu récupérer le prix de leurs billets.
Bonne journée