Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fes Festival of Sufi Culture 2015 ~ Photographic Retrospective

Photo: Priam Thomas   (Click on any image to enlarge)

Festival Highlights

Samaà with the Tariqa Charqawiyya of Jazuliyya-Shadhiliyya  (see review here)

Samaà with the Tariqa Charqawiyya was a high energy event that many in the audience rated as the most engaging  samaà of the festival.

Kudsi Erguner: see review here

For many, the music and generous nature of Kudsi Erguner was the most enjoyable experience of the festival. This humble man produced celestial music from his nay.

Fatima Azzahra Kortobi - a fine opening night performance

Fatima Azzahra Kortobi and Marouane Hajji were in top form on the opening night. Fatima Azzahra's voice was superb and the first night tribute to the poet Rabiaa was a perfect opening to the festival.

Beautiful renditions of Rumi's poetry

Mention should also be made of the beautiful renditions of poems by Rumi, with music and narration, performed at several of the round table discussions. Poems were read by Katia and Gabrielle Légeret and the accompaniment by Mohammad Ali Merati and singing by Taghi Akbari. Thank you!

The Turkish Explosion!

Photo Priam Thomas

More than anything else, the 2015 festival will be remembered as the year of the Turks. Not only because of the sublime ney of Kudsi Erguner, but also the two Sufi Tariqas whose spectacular displays and samaà were a huge pleasure for the audiences.

Chaykh Nur Allah Fatih - Photo Priam Thomas

The leader of the Tariqa Khalwatiyya, Chaykh Nur Allah Fatih, is no stranger to festivals in Fez and it was a delight to have him back again.  Once more we were treated to an intense display of the dramatic power of the Khalwatiyya and in particular the extraordinary grace of Burak Bildik and his "whirling Dervish" brothers.

Burak Bildik
A Turkish spectacular

The only odd moment amidst the "Turkish Delights" was the combined Tariqas' "Turkish Circus Bezerkus" on the closing night. While it was an incredible spectacle and possessed extreme high energy, the cultural reference points were beyond most in the audience. Nevertheless it became the number one discussion subject the next day.

Round Table Discussions

The round table discussions at this festival were controversial, not because of their subjects, but rather the lack of professional moderation. Too often, introductions took up to 40 minutes and became presentations in themselves.  In one case a Amazigh poet, who many had come to listen to, was given only five minutes.

  Guest, Roderick Grierson,  praised the Festival programme. Photo Priam Thomas

While it is acknowledged by the critics (mostly amongst the French contingent) that the moderators have extensive knowledge, their role is to facilitate and keep the presentations on track. If their input is deemed necessary, then they should be panel members have another person act as moderator.

It was not until the final day that a Round Table became an actual discussion rather than the presentation of a paper. Much of the problem could be solved by returning to a more informal discussion format and having interaction between the guests and with the audience.

The Verdict?

The 2015 Fes Festival of Sufi Culture was a success and gave many visitors their first experience of Sufi Culture. Future festivals should build on this.  Congratulations to Director  Faouzi Skali and his team, logistically it was one of the best run we have experienced over the years.

There is still a lack of material in English which, as has been pointed out many times, is a real problem given that every year the number of people who understand English rather than French, increases. English is either a first or second language for most of the Europeans, Americans and Australians who attend the Festival. Our visitors come from around the world rather as in the old days, mainly from France. Many people suggested there be Arabic and English presentation with headset translations into French for those who don't understand Arabic or English.

The audience has its say

"More music and fewer academics." - Astrid from California.
"A wider range of Sufi groups and, please, shorter introductions that actually tell us something about the Brotherhood performing" - Albert from Bordeaux
"Only one discussion each day and the inclusion of Pakistani and Indian Sufis" - Jurgen, Cologne.
"Where is the English program?" -  Pentti, Helsinki, Finland
"I would like to see more of the experiential and less of the philosophical." - Maria, Barcelona.
"A chance to dance! More joy, less talk." - Rebecca, Manchester, UK.
"Combining two Tariqas such as the Siqilliyya and the Wazzaniyya meant we did not get the full experience of either." -  Abdellah, Marrakech.
"I had a fabulous time!"- Monique, Paris.

Among the dozens of comment received by The View from Fez, this year's classic comes from an American woman who has attended several festivals. "It's either that my butt is getting bigger, or these chairs are smaller than last year."

Thanks to ...

Ashraf: for running the best security team yet
Sound and lighting - great work by Khalid Malak and his team
Thibaut Chandelier: Efficient, helpful and gracious facilitation of just about everything!
Si Mohammed Najib: for reminding us that being a Sufi is about the heart
Ismail: for divine mint tea
Rachida El Jokh and Priam Thomas

Photos and text: Priam Thomas and Sandy McCutcheon

The View from Fez Team
Sandy McCutcheon - text and photos
Priam Thomas - text and photos
Rachida El Jokh - Camera assistant and translator

See other Festival reports
Sufi Festival  ~ Day One
Sufi Festival ~ Day Two
Sufi Festival ~ Day Three
Sufi Festival ~ Day Four
Sufi Festival ~ Day Five
Sufi Festival ~ Day Six
Sufi Festival ~ Day Seven
Sufi Festival ~ Day Eight

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