Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mohammed Briouel, Francoise Atlan & Lior El Maleh Conjure the Spirit of Andalusia


Mohamed Briouel and Francoise Atlan have been regular and popular performers at previous Fes Festivals and once again this year they were given the warm Fez welcome they deserve

Known as "Sheik Mohamed", he was born in the city of Fez, in 1954 and from 1963 studied music alongside Haj Abdelkrim Rais, one of the masters of the Arab-Andalusian Music in the 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. He was accompanied on stage by no less than 17 other musicians, 10 of whom played the violin in the classic upright style favoured in the Middle East. There was also a rebab, two ouds, a cello and percussionists. The overall effect of this number of stringed instruments was to produce an intense vibration throughout the performance.

Mohamed Briouel (centre)

Mohamed Briouel teaming up with Françoise Atlan and Israeli singer Lior El Maleh was a perfect combination particularly for the style of Sephardic music that the audience was treated to tonight. This was overwhelming a concert for the Moroccan audience who responded enthusiastically to songs they knew by heart, singing along heartily, hand clapping, eyes closed and later, dancing in the aisles.

Françoise Atlan and  Lior El Maleh

Dressed once again in her trademark black Atlan was immediately able to express the duende and tarab the emotions that lie at the heart of Andalusian Sephardic songs. This music is deceptively simple but emotionally complex and it takes an artist of her calibre to take it to it's full potential. She did not disappoint. During the opening song - an interpretation of Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor sung in Arabic - her voice swooped and soared over the ramparts of Bab Al Makina with perfect clarity. With powerful projection she did not need the help of the strong wind that swept across the stage to carry her voice.

Her voice quality has only improved over the years as has her ability to inhabit the middle ground between a classically trained soprano and a lyrical singer. Her ability to naturally combine the two into a harmonious whole highlights her skill and talent as one of Morocco’s premiere vocal artists.

For his part, Lior El Maleh, who has been the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra's resident soloist for a number of years, showed why he is considered to be one of the leading representatives of the new generation of performers of Andalusian music.

A highly accomplished singer, El Maleh possesses a vocal quality and strength that matches his understanding of the material. He is not simply a performer of this music but an interpreter of the many and varied types of Andalusian song.

Fez favourite: Marouane Hajji

Together with Françoise Atlan and El Maleh, Mohamed Briouel and his musicians along with guests such as Morouane Hajji, evoked the land of Andalusia, a melting pot of Muslim, Jewish and Christian cultures where Hebrew and Arab poetry were interwoven. Also perfectly interwoven were the musicians who were evidently enjoying themselves, smiling and nodding with pleasure at the harmony they achieved over and over again.

Text: Sandy McCutcheon, Vanessa Bonnin
Photographs: Vanessa Bonnin, Sandy McCutcheon

Fes Festival ~  Saturday June 21

Jnan Sbil Garden 4pm: Ihsan Rmiki

Batha Museum 4pm: Mint Ely Warakane & Raza Khan

Bab Boujloud Square 6.30pm: Kadim Al Sahir

Bab al Makina 9pm: Buddy Guy

Sufi Night at Dar Tazi 11pm: Hamadsha of Fez

Weather: Much cooler - Max 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 Fahrenheit) 

Fez Medina Map

The View from Fez is an official media partner of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

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