The Sufi Nights at the Fes Festival were an overwhelming success and reached a peak on the final night. The Hamadcha Brotherhood, under the leadership of the charismatic malem Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi, are firm favourites in Fez, and playing to their hometown audience they were given a wonderful reception before a capacity crowd. Larry Marshall reports for The View from Fez
|Hamadcha Malem - Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi|
Saving the Best for the last - The Hamdouchia Brotherhood (and sisterhood ) of Fez
The Hamdouchia of Fez know how to play to their enormous local following. Dar Tazi is packed like never before with expectation brimming over to excitement. Suddenly the wailing sounds of the horns arrive from the back of the courtyard which is bathed in lights and seven flag bearing young men lead the group of twenty-four singers and players onto the stage.
|The twenty-four strong Hamadcha members at Dar Tazi|
Their director or malem, Abderrahim Amrani Marrackchi has the audience singing and clapping from the moment he hits the stage. He plays the oud and is the energetic core of the Hamdouchia of Fez. A smaller number from the group have recently been invited to perform at the Woodford Festival in Australia, the largest festival in the Southern Hemisphere.
|Younger members of the Hamadcha Brotherhood|
The Hamadcha tonight included some new younger players just for this concert and they are enthusiastically jumping with the beat as the crowd roars its appreciation. An older man in a riotous orange turban leads the singers in the special movements and jumps which are part of the sacred healing rituals of the Hamdouchia experience.
| Abdel Ouahed Riffi Lotfi and Faith Barker |
The other surprise is that for the first time the Sufi Nights, a Western woman is part of the group. Faith Barker has blonde hair and blue eyes and there are mutterings in the audience until she speaks perfect Arabic and then sings a long chant as the lead solo voice.
Then there are heads (male and female) sagely nodding in appreciation and my Moroccan friends say she sounded like a local Arabic speaker. The entire audience give her a very warm welcome. Faith Barker, one man confides, has been a Sufi for years. Another crowd favourite is French musician Frederic Calmes, a long time member of the Brotherhood and a fine singer and gimbri player.
The songs are upbeat and infectious from the start with the audience participating in 'call and response'. This is the perfect concert to close these memorable Sufi nights. This sacred music has touched many hearts in the past ten days and it will continue to draw new followers to Fez in the years ahead.
|Abdel Ouahed Riffi Lotfi|
Connie from California told The View from Fez this was her first visit here but definitely not her last. "That was hypnotic music. The chanting and singing was more upbeat than I expected. It really draws you in inviting you to move your body and close your eyes. I want more."
Jordi from Spain: "The music and the movement are one thing - they are not easily separated. This music insists that you sway and move and even jump and it does call to you in some visceral way. I will come back next year to learn more deeply."
Text: Larry Marshall
Photographs: Joel Dowling
The View from Fez is an official media partner of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music