Saturday, April 25, 2015

Fes Festival of Sufi Culture ~ Day Eight

"The listener is the performer, and the performer is the listener" ~ Rumi
Click on images to enlarge 

Morning Round Table

The final Round Table was on the practical application of Sufism. As such, it was a fitting conclusion to the Festival of Sufi Culture. Faouzi stated in his introduction, that we often think of spiritual path as leading to a denouncement of the world. What comes to mind might be an ascetic who lives away from society in the mountains. But this is not true of the great spiritual figures of Sufism. He argued that Sufism carries an ingrained social responsibility based on "spiritual chivalry" or Futuwwa.

Bariza Khiari - Photo Priam Thomas

In a progressive twist on the traditional understanding of the term chivalry, Faouzi praised female politician Bariza Khiari as its embodiment, and asked her to start the discussion. The audience had already heard her speak on the opening day, but Bariza is a passionate and engaging speaker. She explained that Fatuwwa has two aspects: one spiritual and the other ethical. Together, they make up "the interior and exterior man". Through spiritual reflection, she argued that leaders can achieve a "depassment de contraires," an overcoming of conflicts, by opening their minds to a third way. She closed with a poem by Muhammad Iqbal.

Photo Priam Thomas

Second to speak was Khalil Merroun, the Imam of a mosque in Paris. He talked about the importance of sincerity and self reflection in order to achieve an "Ablution du coeur et l'esprit." "I meditate to reflect and find the force to meet my responsibilities,” he said. Abdullah Wasani also spoke. His talk focussed on charity and leadership. He stated "Chivalry is profoundly believing you are at the service of others." He told the audience that it is important for all of us to be spiritual leaders and lead through example.

Abdullah Wasani - Photo Priam Thomas

Faouzi was in great form as moderator, ensuring that speakers kept their talks simple and to the topic. Talks were kept to about 10 - 15 minutes, so that the Round Table came across as a discussion, rather than a series of independent lectures. This ensured that everyone could speak, and still have time at the end for audience discussion. As a result, the Round Table was more engaging, and a big improvement on earlier sessions.

Afternoon Concert

Shaykh Hassan Dyck and the group Muhabbat Caravan are a truly international combination. In addition to the Shaykh, who lives in Germany, the group includes Anouar Barrada from Morocco, Ali Keeler from Andalucia, Ustad Daud Khan Sadozai from Afganistan  and Abdul Malik Dyck from Germany.

Daud Khan Sadozai, was born in Kabul in 1955. He studied Robab (a traditional lute-instrument of Afghanistan) with Ustad Muhammad Umar, who was the most famous Robab-interpret of the classical style as well as the traditional folklore style in his country.

Ali Keeler is no stranger to the festival having delighted the 2014 audiences with the Al Firdaus Ensemble with Keeler featuring on vocals and violin (see story here).
"The Caravan Muhabbat music is a journey, for each listener to travel along the different caravan trails that lead to the presence of the beloved. To kneel at the beloved’s threshold and inhale the sweet fragrance of the exalted Rawda (garden of paradise)"
Shaykh Hassan Dyck opened the concert by saying "it is an honour to meet you , your hearts and souls." This was followed by a traditional recitation of the opening lines from the Quran beautifully sung by Moroccan Anouar Barrada with the final lines being delivered by the Shaykh.

To the relief of the audience the Shaykh spoke English with an onstage translator delivering the French. It was a flawless way of making certain that everyone comprehended the songs. It is also something festival organisers could take on board given the growing number of English speakers in the audience.

The first song featured a Rumi poem but with a non-traditional musical accompaniement. The poem described the way of seeker of eternal love "must die before they die".

"Knowing too much hinders knowing at all.   
Does the wild man know his reasons?  
No he does crazy things without thought."

The first song sung by the Shaykh was breathlessly theatrical and dramatic - like Leonard Cohen singing blues. The audience appeared dumbstruck by his intimacy... intrigued or captivated.

The Shaykh's son, Abdul Malik Dyck, has a beautiful voice and sung like an angel. Ali Keeler's violin and his voice, when singing in an ancient Moriscos language was pitch perfect.

Abdul Malik Dyck

However, many in the audience felt the entire performance was overly saccharine and contrived to be "sacred". At the very least it started a debate among a number of French visitors about how much the spiritual supermarket is worth.

In the end the, "the listener is the performer...."

Evening Concert at Bab Makina

Before the final concert, the organisers of the Fes Festival of Sufi Culture had a surprise in store for the audience - a Turkish Delight. The massed Tariqas came on stage in an astoundingly circus like performance that was accompanied by a multitude of instruments and deep guttural voices.

Photo Priam Thomas

Some forty Turkish Sufis marched into the Bab Makina from backstage and proceeded across the front of the venue before assembling on stage.

They were dressed for Cirque de Soleil meets Ghengis Khan - astonishing. Playing two large drums the Turks exploded into a frenetic all or nothing attempt to beat the world record for twirling and head thrashing at the same time - the general consensus was that they succeeded. If there was any doubt about that verdict, then the judges need only consult the hundreds of smart phones that sprang into video mode to record it.

Photo Priam Thomas

The final night concert was a compilation of some great Moroccan samaà singers and Thami Harraq's Andalusian Ensemble. Born in 1959 in Tetouan, Thami al-Harrak is a member of the Harrâqiyya Brotherhood, founded there are more than two hundred years by his grandfather Sidi Muhammad al-Harraq.

Photo Priam Thomas

His "Troupe Thami al-Harraq", are dedicated to the sacred music, Andalusian mouachahates and Sufi poetry. Al-Harraq has participated in the Sacred Music Festival in Fez and Cairo Opera House, as well as to other festivals in Morocco and abroad.

At Bab Makina, the Ensemble fielded a strong team: 15 members of a typical Andalusian orchestra and 29 singers seated on the ground in front of them. During the evening various singers took solos, all were gifted with great voices, but the standout was Marouane Hajji, who proved, once again, that he was no one season wonder.

 Marouane Hajji - a stand out performer

Thami al-Harrak, the group leader, also sang with gusto and obvious enjoyment.

Photo Priam Thomas

The finale was just about the voices and after laying their instruments down, all 44 members sang their hearts out with popular material that the audience knew and loved. Their only aid was a single bass drum played in typical Moroccan style - one side struck with a large drumstick, the other with a light twig.

Photo Priam Thomas

It was a fitting end to an interesting festival that, although short on highlights was a solid display of Sufi music and culture.

Photos and text: Priam Thomas and Sandy McCutcheon

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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Dr. J. Burckhardt said...

I have been following the Festival posts all week. Thank you to Priam and Sandy for the lovely photographs and the straight forward reporting. Well done.

Sandy McCutcheon said...

It was our pleasure! Mind you, the 15 - 16 hour days took their toll!