Wednesday evening’s Sufi Nights at Dar Tazi was a treat to all concertgoers in attendance. Families, teens and visitors piled in early to grab choice real estate close to the stage, all hoping to be closer to Meknes’ Group Rouh. Yassine Habibi, the group’s director, took the stage and lead the ensemble through a set showing their command of songs adored by the audience
The audience, a mixture of Fassi families, teenagers and visitors filled the rugs laid out across Dar Tazi’s sprawling grounds, old friends catching up with one another and new friendships being forged while waiting for Mr. Habibi and the Group Rouh to take the stage and even after the performance started. The audience was truly a part of the performance, as Mr. Habibi demanded participation from them in the form of call and response, the latter causing a great smile to break out across Mr. Habibi’s otherwise serious face.
Over the festival we have been treated to a delicious taste of what is really a smorgasbord of Sufi styles.
The Rouh brotherhood from Meknes had a very different line up to every other group seen so far at this festival. Mr Habibi, with a magnificent voice, was out front dressed in white robes, with his musicians dressed in black seated behind him. The instruments too were a new mix. For the first time there was an electric piano and a zither playing together. To one side a musician playing classical violin in the european style (held at the chin not sitting in the lap) with a distinct touch of Stephane Grappelli in his elegant solo introductions to each song. There was a flautist and four drummers with hand-held drums including a doumbek (goblet shape) and a frame drum.
This concert was billed as Sama'a, which is Arabic for 'listening' and invokes the practice of listening to music and chanting to reinforce ecstasy and induce a mystical trance. The origin of Sama'a is credited to the famous Sufi master and Persian poet Rumi. The chant last night was 'la ilaha ilallah' - 'there is no God but Allah'.
While sitting in the front of the crowd, it was easy to forget how large the audience was. Occasionally the lighting engineer threw a set of floodlights onto the vast seated crowd, illuminating casual concertgoers and those having deep spiritual experiences alike. Men and women throughout the audience were visibly moved by the performance – throughout the crowd, attendees closed their eyes, tilted their heads back and sang Mr. Habibi’s words back to the stage in a communion with the ensemble.
Sitting on a thin rug covering a hard zelij floor is hardly the most comfortable way to enjoy a performance, though Mr. Habibi and Group Rouh put on a show that eased all pain and discomfort and was a joy to witness.
Mark from London
This was 'sacred pop' with the singer sometimes breaking into English with his glorious voice. I loved the atmosphere here in Fez.
Sam/Omar - I was born here in Morocco but I live in Los Angeles. This is my first time to see such a concert.Only in Morocco can a classical music evening turn into a dance party.
Nora from L.A.
Everyone was so passionate about the music and so involved in singing and clapping and then the dance... it was amazing!
Text : Joel Dowling, Larry Marshall
Photographs: Joel Dowling
Fes Festival ~ Thursday June 19
Jnan Sbil Garden 4pm: Amina Ben SoudaBatha Museum 4pm: Gypsies of Provence
Bab Boujloud Square 6.30pm: Raza Khan/Abidat Rma
Bab al Makina 9pm: Voices of sama'a Mohammed Briouel
Sufi Night at Dar Tazi 11pm: Zaouia Harrakia from Rabat
Weather: Cool and cloudy - Max 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 Fahrenheit)
Fez Medina Map