Saturday, September 06, 2014

Amazigh Festival of Fez ~ Day Two

Day two of the 10th edition of the Fes Festival of Amazigh Culture again presented a varied and interesting programme that ranged from sociological discussions to poetry and a even a musical lecture. The evening featured two fine concerts

Jilali Saib

During the day the forums continued their examination of Amazigh and Hassani culture, with a discussion on diversity in the wider African context and an address by Kwesi Prah from the Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society in Cape Town.

A discussion on socio-cultural representation of Sub Saharan societies was lead by Jilali Saib from the the Mohammed V University.

The daytime events have been well attended and both audience and participants told The View from Fez that the programme was extremely interesting and generating debate over coffee or tea between sessions.

 Organiser, Moha Ennaji (pictured below) declared himself "very happy" with the way the festival was going.

The evening programme kicked off at Bab Al Makina with a performance by Rabah Mariwari followed by one of the great stars of Hassani music, Rachida Talal.

Rabah Mariwari came on to the stage to a warm Fez welcome from the large crowd. Backed by a five piece band (two keyboards, drummer, fiddle player and tabla percussion) Mariwari launched straight into his set and within minutes had the crowd clapping and cheering. Built like a front row rugby player, his powerful voice and energy made up for his lack of vocal range or nuance. Unlike the "boy band" of the previous night, Mariwari engaged with the audience who repaid him with sustained applause.

At the end of the set he was presented with a memento of the occasion.

Moroccan music is as diverse as the landscapes and various climates across the Kingdom and Rachida Talal is a fine exponent of one of the lesser known genres - Hassani music.

The music of the Hassaniya emerges from a vast area that encompasses Western Sahara and Mauritania. In Hassani song you can hear the lament of sand and echoes of traditions stretching far back into history.

Hassani music is a tradition that transmits the cults and chronicles of the nomadic life of desert dwellers and their connection to nature. It recounts the struggles for survival, loves songs, nostalgia for places and tribal epics.

Rachida Talal plays with a modern six piece band and yet retains the purity and passion of the traditional music. Her voice soars over the crowd like a falcon and with each phrase she carries the audience with her. It was a superb performance by a woman whose early career was one of setbacks and disappointments caused by her region's conservative approach to traditional music. Thankfully she persisted and Talal became a trailblazer -  the first artist from her region to break the ban on women singing. After the initial struggle for recognition, Rachida won numerous national and Arab music prizes.

His first album was a hit and included "Taâlaqa Qalbi" a song that opened the door to stardom and "Yalli Taïbna Sinin Fi Hawak" which remains a crowd favorite to today.

The Music of the Hassaniya

As in Mauritania, the Sahrawis have a caste of griots , but because of the incessant unrest since 1958 many musicians have chosen to express themselves without being members of the professional caste.

Hassanya music is played on tidinit. Made out of hollowed out wood and with a leather cover, it is similar to a four-stringed lute. This is normally accompanied by a drum (Tbal, which is traditionally played by women. The tidinit today tends to be replaced by the acoustic or electric guitar and (as in Rachida Talal's case) accompanied by other instruments. Women still practice many songs in the rhythms and traditional structures, even if played on guitar.

Tomorrow night: Bab al Makina The Imdiazen Band followed by Abdelaziz Ahouzar

Story and photographs: Sandy McCutcheon

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