Last year the organisers of Brazil's Bahia Festival visited Fez and were entranced by the performance of the Aissawa Sufi Brotherhood. An invitation was extended to perform at the Bahia Festival and thanks to manager and organiser Abdelfettah Seffar the visit has become a reality. The Fez Aissawa will give six performances between January 27th and February 4th
|Abdelfettah Seffar - "Exporting Moroccan culture is important"|
Twelve members of the Aissawa will be in Brazil under the guidance of the m'qadam Said Gurssi. The group's manager, Abdelfettah Seffar, told The View from Fez that the visit to Brazil has only been made possible because of generous sponsorship from Royal Air Maroc. The airline has recently opened a new route from Casablanca to Sao Paulo and was happy to accommodate the tour party.
According to Abdelfettah the members of the Brotherhood are excited about the trip as it will be the longest overseas trip they have made. Previously the Aissawa have performed in England, France, Spain and Italy.
The festival takes place in the city of Salvador in Bahia state and is a celebration of peace through dance and music - a fitting venue for the Aissawa. The View from Fez hopes to bring you a report from the festival in the coming week.
Background on the Aissawa
The Aissawa (also Aïssâwa, Issâwa, Aïssaoua, Issaoua) is a religious and mystical brotherhood founded in Meknès, Morocco, by Muhammad Ben Aïssâ (1465–1526), best known as the Shaykh Al-Kâmil, or "Perfect Sufi Master". The terms Aïssâwiyya (`Isâwiyya) and Aïssâwa (`Isâwa), derives from the name of the founder, and respectively designate the brotherhood (tariqa, literally: "way") and its disciples (fuqarâ, sing. to fakir, literally: "poor"). They are known for their spiritual music, which generally comprises songs of religious psalms, characterized by the use of the oboe ghaita (similar to themizmar or zurna) accompanied by percussion using polyrhythm.
|Said Guissi and his team|
Some details regarding Ben Aïssâ remain unknown. He has a controversial genealogy and a hagiography that projects the image of a Sufi master and legendary ascetic of considerable spiritual influence. Ben Aïssâ built his own mausoleum in the monastery or Zaouia in the city of Meknès. This is now a destination for his modern followers to visit and pray while participating in individual or collective acts of piety. Ben Aïssâ was initiated into Sufism by three masters of the tariqa Shadhiliyya/Jazûliyya: `Abbâs Ahmad Al-Hâritî (Meknès), Muhammad `Abd Al `Azîz At-Tabbâ (Marrakech) and Muhammad as-Saghîr as-Sahlî (Fès).
The Zaouia or monastery in Meknès is the main spiritual centre of the Aissawa brotherhood. Founded by Muhammad Ben Aïssâ at the end of the 15th century, construction resumed three centuries later under sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah. Often renovated by the Ministry for Habous and Islamic Affairs and maintained by the municipal services, this is the center of the brotherhood's international network. The site is open to the public all year round and is the location of the tombs of founder Chaykh Al-Kâmil, his disciple Abû-ar-Rawâyil, and the alleged son of the founder, Aïssâ Al-Mehdi.
Aïssâwa's international growth began in the 18th century. From Morocco, it has spawned organizations in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. Outside of these countries, Aïssâwi practice without immediate access to Aïssâwa institutions, as in France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, the USA and Canada. There is a building movement in the United States, focused primarily in Chicago, where an Aïssâwa music group known as Chicago Aissawa has been established by Quentin Shaw who has traveled regularly to Meknes to study the music.