Monday, July 08, 2013

Abdelaziz Stati Wraps Up the Fez Festival of Amazigh Culture

Abdelaziz Stati - Amazigh flag around his neck, Moroccan flag on his chair

Born in 1961 in El Jadidida, Alarbaoui Abdelaziz (Stati) is probably the most popular Chaâbi performer in Morocco. Abdelaziz Stati is appreciated for the Aita style at which he excels. Stati owes his nickname to the fact that his left hand with which he plays traditional violin, is six-fingered.

In his childhood, he was inspired by his uncle Bouchaib Ben Rahhal, who was a Chaabi artist and a violin player. He chose to play the violin, and his dream was to become a great violin player. In the late 1970’s, he began to play the violin with the band of Sttat. Indeed, the band needed a violin player.

In the early 1980’s he had the opportunity to get experience from great musicians like Salah Smaili, Salah Elmeknassi, Assahib ben Almaati and others. In 1985, Abdelaziz founded his band of Chaabi music with two fellow musicians. He soon became a pop star and started to perform in special occasions the Moroccan middle-class.

He started releasing his albums in 1983 with "Almouima Essabra Dima". Later on, he released "Wa Baeed Al Zinne", "Moulate Laayoune Lakbare", "Moulay Ettahar", and "Passport W Visa". His first hit "Almouima Essabra Dima" was re-performed by the King of Rai Cheb Khaled. Stati is considered as one of the best Chaabi artists of Morocco. His concert in the "Mawazine" Festival, in 2009, was attended by 70 thousand spectators.

There was not a lot of publicity, but the rumour that Stati was to appear at the Amazigh Festival was enough to pack out the large Bab El Makina venue.

However, the audience had to wait as the first performance was by a flamenco troupe from Spain. It was a delightful way to wait. Not as polished as some of the performances seen during the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, it was nevertheless a raw, gutsy performance with some great flamenco singing and a impassioned dance segments.

The crowd were unaware that they were in for a surprise treat until a group of Hamadcha performers joined the flamenco troupe in a few minutes of Andalusian fusion.

Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi unfurls the Amazigh flag

The appearance on stage of the Hamadcha leader, Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi with a small group of Hamadcha musicians was greeted with a roar of appreciation by the crowd. Marrakchi is a consummate showman and he didn't disappoint either with his trademark throaty singing or his enthusiasm for joining with the flamenco dancers  His flamenco style probably explains why he should stick to Hamadcha ceremonies - but nevertheless thew audience loved it. He was joined on stage by Hassaniya el Badissi from California and Aissawa singer Mohssin el Arafa of the Aissawa Brotherhood from bruxelles;

"What do I want?   Passport wa visa!"

However, the crowd had come for their beloved Abdelaziz Stati and when he walked onto the stage he was greeted like a national folk hero. 

His violin playing is an extraordinary mix of pyrotechnics and gymnastics and, like Marrakchi before him, he is a great showman. And while his staccato and pizzicato work is first class, it was his message that the people had come to hear. 

"Arabs or Amazigh? To me they are all the same. We are the one people," he said and the audience applauded wildly.

Earlier in the festival the audience were treated to a performance by the remarkable Najat Aabadou and like her, Stati is famous for his challenging and rebellious attitude towards the things that irk most Moroccans. All he had to do was open his mouth and start asking "What is it I want" and the huge crowd roared "Passport wa Visa".  There are countries where such an open challenge to governments to loosen up would cause serious problems, thankfully this was Morocco and in front of the audience a policeman and a security guard joined in the audience response.

At the end of the performance Stati was given an award by one of the major forces behind the Amazigh Festival, Moha Ennaji.  

The capacity crowd - told to stay in their seats

You can't stop the children dancing

The only sour note of the entire festival was a decision by someone to attempt to stop the audience dancing. In Morocco that is akin to telling people they must stop breathing. Moroccans are born to dance and when their favourite musician is on stage they can't stop themselves. 

However, a very heavy-handed group of private security officials inflamed the crowd by ordering them back in their seats. It failed, of course, but left a bad taste and what could have been a triumphant night to remember was sadly diminished. 

To see a nine year old boy in tears because he had been told to stop dancing was not a good note on which to end an otherwise superb festival.

At major festivals security are given workshops in how to be audience friendly . Moroccan security guards need to start taking lessons. 

Despite the heavy-handed security, the people prevailed
Story and photographs: Sandy McCutcheon

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