Last year at the festival Columbane Mint Ely Warakane wowed the audience with her powerful earthy voice. Now in a return performance she took the crowd on a musical journey with another powerful singer, India's Raza Khan
This concert was a meeting of two great inspired traditions - the Punjabi qawwali and the Hassanid poetry of the Mauritanian Sahara – true points of convergence in a poetic journey underpinned by mystic exaltation.
Raza Khan is the new star of Sufi music touring worldwide with his extraordinary voice, vivid rhythms, and Sufi poetry in its outstanding musical forms. The transition from modular vocals to falsetto with unusual ease and the long sustains in upper register set him apart from other mainstream Sufi artists in the world.
The art of the Mauritanian griots is full of classical wisdom and Columbane Mint Ely Warakane hails from long line of griots from Trarza in southwest Mauritania. The Mauritanian griots show us Hassanid culture which is a remarkable point of convergence between Arabo-Berber culture and that of West Africa. The brutal and passionate voice combines with the intense hand-clapping in praise of ancient tribal dignitaries, evoking warriors and encampments of old. In the poetry of the desert, water and trees become metaphors for a vision of paradise; the oasis is the incarnation in the desert of the bustan (garden of fruit trees), the hidden garden that is a symbol of Arabo-Andalusian civilisation. Mauritania provides the link between north and southern Africa. In the 11th century, the Almoravid empire in Morocco took Islam south to new territory.
Today Columbane Mint Ely Warakane blended that Hassanid culture in perfect harmony with the intensity of Qawwali song. Qawwali song is the Sufi expression of the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent and comes to us from the qawwâl, the musicians and singers of the Chishtiyâ Brotherhood.
This concert was the meeting of two vocal masters and the musical relationship between them was symbiotic. Each sang independently, yet when they sang together they were harmonious and collegial.
Mint Ely Warakane sang with a powerful earthy voice and she has a gorgeous grin that is infectious. As she picked up her ardin (Moorish harp) her hands gestured out toward the audience. She urged the crowd to join her and Khan on this musical journey.
Sadly, only two-thirds of the seats were occupied and this concert lacked the energy of previous performances by Mint Ely Warakane at the Fes festival. She was no different, it was just a different audience. This crowd just wasn't enthused by the performance.
Text: Stephanie Kennedy
Photographs: Joel Dowling
The View from Fez is an official media partner of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music