Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fes Festival - Night in the Medina - Night 3

Dar Adyel  - Terra Maïre - Medieval Sacred Songs of the Occitan People (France)

Beatrice and Marie-Ange 

“Terra Maïre” is a unique duo of a cappella singers. Two surprising voices, emanating from the same source – those of Marie-Ange and Beatrice, mother and daughter – with a common heredity and a common repertoire, rooted in the South of France, in the regions of Rouergue, the Basque Country and the Bearn.

It was back in 1996 that Beatrice and Marie-Ange decided to embark on a pilgrimage back to their roots.  Though mother and daughter, they have very separate personalities and artistic backgrounds. This diversity gave them the energy and ability to breathe life back into the secular songs of the land of their ancestors. These songs – prayers, laments, psalms – "chevrotés" or “sung in a quavering voice” by men and women who have gone before them and most of whom have disappeared, make up a unique heritage, a timeless tradition in danger of extinction.

In the intertwined voices of “Terra-Maïre” - “Mother Earth” in the Occitan language -  their arises a world of essential emotions, that tread the fine line between the sacred and sorcery. These are medieval and sacred melodies in Occitan, language of troubadours and Cathars. 

At Dar Adyel tonight Terra Maïre wove musical magic - producing ancient ghostly melodies that filled the night air. Their voices were ethereal, other-worldly and hypnotic. All performers on stage were barefoot and the symbolism was entirely appropriate - this was music that connected you from the earth under your feet, through your body and lifted your entire being to the skies above.

A delightful touch of the pagan

While one would sing a drone, a single constant pitch, slowly shifting her vowels to create unexpected textures, the other's sorrowful melodies took off from this grounding and wandered through the aural space. They alternated these roles until coming upon a moment at which they broke the pattern and sang lines in thirds, bringing surprise as well as harmonic closure to the pieces.

Also in harmony this evening was the lighting - a mix of ecclesiastical purple and pagan orange achieving just the right mix of heavenly sorcery. This was especially effective when Beatrice began to dance behind the stage, her swirling robes of Indian silk casting shadow images of a faery spirit, spinning and floating in a swirl of mysticism.

Frederic Cavallin and Claire Menguy
Anass Habib 

The participation of talented cello player Claire Menguy, drummer Frederic Cavallin on the tabla and bandir, accompaniment by Anass Habib and the plaintive tones of the Indian Shruti box all contributed to giving the performance the intensity of an initiatory experience.

This is not the first appearance in Fez for Terra Maïre and Fez music lovers will remember the delightful concert at Le Jardin Des Biehn in June 2011. Tonight was for them and for us - a welcome return.

Batha Museum - The Song of Songs and a Tribute to Mahmoud Darwish by Rodolphe Burger

A musical encounter between one of the most famous biblical texts attributed to King Solomon and the poetry of the Palestinian Mahmoud Darwish is a bold undertaking and one, judging by the audience reaction, that was successful. 

Rodolphe Burger, guitar, voice, Mehdi Haddab, oud, Rayess Bek, Arabic song, Ruth Rosenthal, Hebrew song, Yves Dormoy, electronics, clarinet, Julien Perraudeau , bass guitar and keyboard

Rodolphe Burger 
Rodolphe Burger is an interesting and complex character. At first glance most people would not expect a man, dressed like an American country & western singer and with the physique of a rugby player or lumberjack, to recite  softly spoken verses about love and longing. First impressions are dangerous. When Rodolphe Burger sat down at the microphone and began to speak it was to trade verses in French with the the Hebrew speaking Ruth Rosenthal.

The two performers could not be more different. Rosenthal is a petite, elven women, who nevertheless brings the same deep intensity to the lyrics of their first piece. Speaking mainly in Hebrew but occasionally in French, her delivery was augmented by the occasional solitary chime from a set of tingsha - the wonderfully onomatopoeic name for Tibetan brass hand cymbals. The sweet crisp sound rang brightly in the clear night air.

This is polished material - the words not so much recited, but lived; every breath, every nuance perfectly delivered. The effect was one of intimacy, as though the audience were eavesdropping on a love scene that was passionate and sensual.

The accompaniment of the Song of Songs was at first purely the domain of Yves Dormoy and his electronic wizardry. It complimented but never stole the limelight. Burger's guitar was used to good effect, but again, it was the two voices speaking of love that remained dominent.
'For lo, the winter is past
the rain is over and gone;
the flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
the fig tree putteth forth her green figs,
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
' -  Song of Songs
'How much do you wish to place my soul-searching into the beaks of these doves?
So that it disappears over the slopes of the horizon -
so that I know that you are Babel, Egypt and Sham
Fly away doves,
alight doves.'
- Mahmoud Darwish
The second piece was poetry from Mahmoud Darwish was given a more robust musical arrangement with the oud of Mehdi Haddab, giving the audience a spirited introduction that left nobody in doubt about his musical abilities.  With the Darwish poems it was the turn of Arabic speaking Rayess Bek to join the recitation. His delivery, though heartfelt, was not as emotive or engaging as that of the talented duo of Rosenthal and Burger.

Mehdi Haddab

The previous night, in the same venue with Rabbi Haim Louk, we experienced matrouz with its joyful melding of Arabic and Hebrew. Tonight we examined the same melding with the addition of French but the style was a universe away from that of the Rabbi.

There was nothing "folksy" here. At times the music behind the beautifully spoken verses in Hebrew and French sounded like electronic meditation music that belonged in some New Age spa, and yet the combination worked.

Reaching beyond his roots in blues, rock and country, Rodolphe Burger creates a musical universe that's constantly expanding: between mutant rock, obsessive circles of melancholia, a jungle of samples, electronics, acid or lunar. He is bravely plotting a course towards a new musical horizon. A place where the avant-garde and tradition can combine. Along this journey the audience senses the profundity of the roots of semitic, biblical and contemporary Arab poetry.  This was an interesting journey and one on which the audience went along in true Fes Festival fashion.


Mahmoud Darwish (Arabic: محمود درويش‎) (13 March 1941 – 9 August 2008) was a Palestinian poet and author who won numerous awards for his literary output and was regarded as the Palestinian national poet. In his work, Palestine became a metaphor for the loss of Eden, birth and resurrection, and the anguish of dispossession and exile.

Darwish published over thirty volumes of poetry and eight books of prose.

Darwish's early writings are in the classical Arabic style. He wrote monorhymed poems adhering to the metrics of traditional Arabic poetry. In the 1970s he began to stray from these precepts and adopted a "free-verse" technique that did not abide strictly by classical poetic norms. The quasi-Romantic diction of his early works gave way to a more personal, flexible language, and the slogans and declarative language that characterised his early poetry were replaced by indirect and ostensibly apolitical statements, although politics was never far away.
Streets encircle us
As we walk among the bombs.
Are you used to death?
I'm used to life and to endless desire.
Do you know the dead?
I know the ones in love.

Dar Mokri - Al Arabi Ensemble (Morocco)

My heart can take on any form:
A meadow for gazelles,
A cloister for monks,
For the idols, sacred ground,
Ka'ba for the circling pilgrim,
The tables of the Torah,
The scrolls of the Quran.
My creed is Love;
Wherever its caravan turns along the way,
That is my belief,
My faith. -   
Ibn Arabi

This Ensemble takes its inspiration from the repertoire of the zaouïa, the great poets like Ibn Arabi after whom they are named, and others such as Ibn Faridh, Al Shushtari, Al Harraq and the great Rabbi Al Adawiya. The Ensemble has evolved over the years and represents the great Arab-Andalus tradition.

Marouane Hajji.

The treat of the evening was the exquisite voice of rising star Marouane Hajji. Born in Fez in 1987, Hajji is a violinist and Moroccan Sufi singer with considerable charisma. His pure tones soared above the combined voices of the Ensemble, conveying transcendent spirituality. He sang with his eyes closed, an expression of bliss on his boyish, handsome face.

Hajji began singing at the age of five, studying under the tutelage of Sheikh Haj Mohammed Bennis, at the Mederssa Rachidite in Ras Echarratine, and with teachers at the Fez Conservatory of Music. In 1998, he won first place in a competition held at the National Festival of Singers in Fez for his ability to captivate an audience, the power of his voice and originality of his performance - all qualities that were clearly evident in his performance tonight.

The audience, predominantly local Moroccans, thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

Reviews, reports and photographs: Vanessa Bonnin, Sandy McCutcheon, Suzanna Clark


Tomorrow's Programme
Thursday June 14th

14.30 – 18.30 @ Houria Cultural Complex
Children’s Activities
Expressions of Body and Soul / Calligraphy / Theatre

16.00 @ Batha Museum
Arabesques: Rocío Màrquez, voice and Christian Boissel, piano and composition
Poems from the Diván del Tamarit by Federico Garcia Lorca (France and Spain)

20.30 @ Bab Al Makina
Wadi El Safi & Lotfi Bouchnak (Lebanon and Tunisia)

22.00 @ Bab Boujloud Square – free entry
Leila Mrini
Nabila Maan

23.00 @ Dar Tazi – free entry
Sufi Nights
Issawiya Brotherhood: Night of the Mkadmins (Fes)


Festival Programme
Festival in the City
Sufi Nights
Festival Forums
Festival Eating Guide
Art during the Festival #1
Art during the Festival #2
The Enchanted Gardens of Fez
Last Minute Accommodation

Reporting: Vanessa Bonnin, Sandy McCutcheon
Photographs: Suzanna Clarke, Sandy McCutcheon, Vanessa Bonnin

The View from Fez is an official Media Partner of the Fès Festival of World Sacred Music


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