Friday, May 12, 2017

Fes Festival Opening Night Review

Suva Devi Kalbelya (note: Click on images to enlarge)
The opening night of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, held at Bab Makina, was a creation that set itself the task of looking at water from both an ecological and spiritual perspective
The publicity for the event described the spectacle as: "...contemporary, more abstract, more organic! There will be a large orchestra and music of different traditions in a spirit of onomatopoeia, aquatic and apocalyptic dreams, water noises, torrents and whale songs".

Once again the show employed sophisticated image mapping, which brought the venue to life and immersed Bab Makina beneath the ocean. And, yes, there were whale songs, and as the audience watched the city of Fez sunk beneath the waves, submerged, in a echo of Atlantis.

Water, water everywhere...

Starting slowly, with the Kuwaiti El Ammiri Ensemble, there came a succession of vignettes - some decent pole acrobatics (Chinese mast) by a performer from Morocco's Shemsy Circus, a singer in a white dress upstaged by a projected backdrop, resembling an early computer screensaver of an aquarium (complete with seahorses).

El Ammiri Ensemble

Then it was off to Egypt with the assistance of sur-titles (alas, only in Arabic or French). At times the progress of the show was a little slow, but then things would change - a brightly dressed dervish whirled and then became a fabulous fluorescent blur as his battery-powered skirts evoked applause from the crowd. Then a second dervish added to the scene and provided one of the evening's best visuals.

Batteries included...

One of the evening's high points arrived with Lingling Yu performing beautifully on the Chinese pipa (lute), giving a display of virtuosity, rolling all five fingers over the strings, her pizzicatos, the play of harmonies and varied tones all combined to create a vibrant interlude.

Lingling Yu

After the yin and yang of passion and serenity from Lingling Yu, came a brilliant dragon dance accompanied by six classical Chinese musicians.

Then it was the turn of India and we went the full Shiva with the night's most complex projections - the moving elements developing into a full blown psychedelic flashback - and of course, a gifted tabla player and a display of Indian dance by Rajasthani Suva Devi Kalbelya. Even without the bonus of batteries (like the Egyptians earlier), Suva Devi Kalbelya was dazzling in gold sequins, and not only did she have rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, but jangled from percussion instruments hung on her biceps.

Going the full Shiva

After Shiva, "the destroyer", there is normally nowhere to go, that is if you don't amp up the party by introducing Morocco's famous djinneya (female djinn) Aisha Kandisha! The mention of Aisha brought a slightly astonished reaction from the audience. However, the small group from the Hamadcha Tariqa  (Brotherhood) did her proud, along with some great guembri playing from the up and coming gnaoua star Mehdi Nassouli.

Mehdi Nassouli
Abderrahim Amrani and the Fez Hamadcha

"In the Maghreb, the well-known Aïsha Kandisha, a giant djinn who protects lovers, haunts rivers ready to lure the solitary wanderer or lost shepherd to her nocturnal beauty. In Fes, she is hidden within the waters of Oued El Jawahir (River of Pearls) which runs on the outskirts of the medina, under the bridge at Place de la Noriah, just behind Bab al Makina. In this place, inhabitants talk of a mystical dimension, leaving offerings of candles, bread, and a slaughtered black cockerel to appease the djinn" 
- Artistic Director Alain Weber
There was more, including High Atlas whistlers and Brazil's Marlui Miranda

What the opening night lacked in excitement it made up for in colour, though at times it felt as though the splendid image mapping was upstaging merely incidental music. As usual, the sound and lighting were near perfect. However, with a lack of a strong narrative line, the production fell short of of the splendid opening at last year's festival. Still, an enjoyable night was had by the capacity crowd, who were treated to a glimpse of what the rest of the festival has to offer.

Photo Credits: All photographs by Suzanna Clarke

Cast and Crew
Alain Weber: conception and direction
Anne Le Gouguec: artistic coordination and general management
Christophe Olivier, assisted by Gaël Boucault: lighting
Franck Marty and Spectaculaires/Allumeurs d’images: scenography (mapping)
Chris Ekers, Erik Loots and Antoine Aïchoun: sound
Rachid Belhasna and Adil El Acchab: stage management
Snafu Wowkonowicz and Aurélie Chauleur: artistic management
Ramzi Aburedwan: musical direction, composition and orchestral arrangements
Gilles Monfort: sound creation

Orchestra comprised of musicians from Belgium, Palestine, the US and France:
Nicolas Draps: first violin
Daniela Ivanova: second violin
Laurent Tardat: viola
Corentin Dalgarno: cello
Alexandre Furnelle: double base
Alfred Hajjar: ney flute
Tammam Saeed: oud
Jean-Jacques Renaut: brass and classical percussion
Tareq Rantisi: percussion
Bachir Rouimi: percussion
Thomas Champagne – saxophone soprano and tenor

From Brazil:
Marlui Miranda: voice, percussion
Caito Marcondes: percussion

From China:
Wu Opera from Zhejiang
Lingling Yu: pipa lute

From Egypt:
Mohamed Mourad Migally: voice and rabab fiddle
Bahaa Mohamed Mourad Migally: darbouka drum
Mobarak Youssef Mobarak Youssef: voice
Aboubakr Mohammed Mourad Migally: daf drum
Mohamed Moustafa Bikhit Dahy: magician
Abdelrahman Hany Mohamed Morad: tanoura dance
Salame Mahmoud Mohamed Abdelrehim: tanoura dance
El Naggar Mohamed Morad Megally: daf drum
El Hamy Mohamed Mourad Megally: voice and rabab fiddle
Ramadan Hassane Youssef Aly: voice and rabab fiddle

From Spain:
Whistlers from the island of Gomera with Eugenio Darias-Darias

From France:
Frédéric Baron: comedy

From Greece:
Christina Koza: voice
Vangelis Pachalidis: santour

From India:
Milind Tulankar: jal tarang percussion
Ojas Adhivi: tabla
Suva Devi Kalbelya: dance

From Iran (Persian Gulf):
Saeed Shanbehzadeh: neyanban (bagpipe), neydjofti (flute), dammam drum
Naghib Shanbehzadeh: tombak drum, zarbetempo (percussion)

From Kuwait:
Salman El Ammari and Al Maas Ensemble: songs of the pearlfishers

From Morocco:
Ulysse with Shemsy: Chinese mast
Whistlers from the High Atlas
Mehdi Nassouli: guembri and voice

From Mali:
Lansiné Kouyaté: balafon


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great review and superb photographs - thank you!