Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mohamed Briouel and Friends Close the Sufi Festival in Style

The final night of the 2014 Fes Festival of Sufi Culture gathered together some fine musicians for an evening of Andalusian music. However, when audience members turned up at the advertised venue, at the Zalagh Park Hotel, they were directed to a dark and empty fifth floor. One "official" claimed it had been moved to the Jnan Palace, while another suggested that it had moved back to the Batha Museum

Arriving at the Batha Museum at 8 PM, an hour before the concert began, it was still possible to get a seat, but as the concert started there was still a crush of around 150 to 200 people backed up to the entrance and a great number of people standing inside, blocking aisles.

Part of a large crowd at the Batha Museum - blocking all exits

When Faouzi Skali began his introductory speech a chant of protest erupted about the lack of seating. It was clear that the number of tickets sold greatly exceeded the capacity of the venue. Skali apologised, saying the concert couldn't be held at the usual venue of the Jnan Palace, as this was being renovated. As on the night before, with the lack of public safety because of the crush, questions are being asked about why more tickets are sold than are seats available and why public safety is not put before profits. It was not a good note on which to end the festival.

With a circle of Sufis seated at the front, and the orchestra onstage behind them, the performance went some way towards saving the evening. The music of Mohamed Briouel's Andalusian Orchestra was greeted with the enthusiasm for this star of the Fez music scene that it deserved.

On this occasion Briouel was joined by some big names such as Mohamed Bajeddoub, Said Chraibi and Mohmed and Abdelfatah Bennis as well as the up and coming star, Marouane Hajji.

Mohamed Briouel at the Fes Sacred Music Festival 

Mohamed Briouel, known as Sheik Mohamed, was born in the city of Fez, in 1954. From 1963, Mohamed Briouel studied music alongside Haj Abdelkrim Rais, one of the masters of the Arab-Andalusian Music in Maghreb. He was the first Moroccan to receive the first prize of music theory and the prize of honor in Arab-Andalusian music. Mohamed Briouel is the director of the Conservatory of Music in Fez, where he also teaches music theory.

In 1986, he won the Prix du Morocco for the publication of his study, Moroccan Andalusian music: Nouba Gharibat Al Husayn, in which are transcribed into Western notation for the first time, eleven Andalusian scores.

In recent years he has directed his own orchestra, the Andalusian Orchestra of Fez, and travel widely both in Morocco and abroad, in the dual context of the Arab-Muslim music and also Sephardic music in the company of Albert Emile Zrihan, and  Françoise Atlan.

Over the last few years he has worked with young singers in Fez in a choir that has already appeared to acclaim in past editions of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music .

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