Saturday, September 06, 2014

10th Amazigh Festival ~ Superb Opening Programme

The 10th edition of the Fes Festival of Amazigh Culture opened yesterday with a tribute to the Honourable Dr Michael Peyron. Dr. Peyron is a specialist in the field of Amazigh language, literature and culture. He is also well known as a writer on tourism in Morocco

Michael Peyron

Michael Peyron was born in the United Kingdom. He has studied in France (at the universities of Bordeaux and Grenoble). His doctoral thesis was on an Amazigh area in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

Peyron taught at the Faculty of Letters of Mohammed V University in Rabat (1973–1988) and in the English Department at Grenoble University (1988–95). In the late 1980s, the focus of his career switched from English to Amazigh studies. From 1995 to1997 he was a guest lecturer at King Fahd School for Translation (Tangier, Morocco), and since 1997 has been a visiting professor at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane.

Dr. Moha Ennaji

Dr. Moha Ennaji, president of Fes festival and a student of Dr. Peyron, invoked his memory to salute the qualities of Michael Peyron as a person and as a university professor. In his testimonial speech, Dr. Moha Ennaji wished long and healthy life to the Dr. Peyron so that he could give more to the Amazigh culture and identity.
"I am immensely glad that Fes Festival of Amazigh culture paid me tribute in its 10th Edition. I am equally happy that a city like Fes hosts such Festival and that Fes is the city where I am paid homage, especially that such events about Amazigh culture and language normally take place in cities with a majority of Amazigh inhabitants and speakers. To be in Fes is definitely a unique experience and will be an unforgettable event for me." ~ Michael Peyron

The opening concert at Bab Al Makina began with an interesting set from the four piece group Xarnege.

Xarnege, or Sharnègo, is a Gascon word which refers to villages on the Gascony and Basque border in which people express themselves in both Basque and Gascon. And so the musical project of Xarnege is a blending and includes elements common to both cultures.

Lucia Longué, pictured above, plays three-holed flutes, besson (double string drum), diatonic accordion, boha (Gascon pipe) and sings. Her duets with Simon Guillaumin produced some delightful harmony work.

Juan Ezeiza (above right) plays fiddle, albokas (Basque hornpipes) and stompbox. Simon Guillaumin (centre) plays electroacustic hurdy-gurdy and sings.  He teaches hurdy-gurdy in Pau Pyrénées and Les Landes conservatories.

 Specialist in gascon traditional music Josean Martín Zarko (above left) plays guitar and bouzouki.

Xarnege were given a warm reception by the crowd and gave a wonderful display of "gascon" style Basque music.


The following act, Tililli, a "boy band" from the Erfoud region were sadly underwhelming. While their guitar work was well handled, their singing (often flat) was not to the crowd's liking. Unfortunately they did not connect to the audience and spent a good deal of time talking to each other which detracted from their performance.

Finally, the moment the large crowd had been waiting for, the Gnawa superstar Hamid Al Kasri took to the stage. Supported by a highly energised ensemble including a two man horn section, Al Kasri, a superb showman and musician, could do no wrong.

Hamid AL Kasri (pictured above) is exceptional on the three -string lute hajhuj or gimbri (Ar. چنبري;) and was accompanied by a group of four men playing the large heavy iron castanets known as qraqab ( Ar. قراقب) that are central to Gnawa music.

Shortly into the set there was a break as Al Kasri was presented with a musical award and then it was back to the music.

Although the audience was actively dissuaded from dancing by the security guards, one devotee, overcome by the music, got to his feet and, to the crowd's delight proceeded to give a display of trance dancing.

The audience was captivated!

The audience knew the words of every song and needed no prompting from Al Kasri to join in - with gusto! The performance went on until well after midnight and received a prolonged standing ovation. It was a great way to kick off the festival.

Tonight: Bab Makina: 9pm  Rabah Mariwari and Rachida Talal. The concerts are free.

Story and photographs: Sandy McCutcheon
Quote from Michael Peyron courtesy of Morocco World News

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