Saturday, October 14, 2017

Fez Festival of Sufi Culture - Day One Review

The opening ceremony for the 10th edition of the Fez Festival of Sufi Culture took place this afternoon in the Madrasa Bou Inania. The audience were welcomed by Festival Director Faouzi Skali and the President of the Fez-Sais Association,  Driss Alaoui M’daghri

Monsieur Faouzi Skali
A superb new venue
The madrassa (المدرسة أبو عنانية بفاس) was founded in AD 1351–56 by Abu Inan Faris.
Driss Alaoui M’daghri
Courtney Erwin

For English speakers there was a pleasant surprise. Courtney Erwin welcomed the audience in perfect Arabic and then in English.

Courtney is an Affiliated Fellow at the Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance, and Development at Leiden Law School currently pursuing a doctorate in international and comparative law. Her research focuses on the development of the human rights movement in Morocco with specific attention to the discourse around the abolition of the death penalty. She is a most welcome addition to the Festival team.

Meanwhile on the Art Scene...
Sufi Festival venue, the Madrasa Bou Inania- etching by Noel Bensted

Recent etchings by Noel Bensted are being shown at Medin'Arts gallery during the festival. The works document his trips to Morocco and in particular the ancient city of Fez over the last five years.

Noel says, "The antique ways of living and the striking light remind me of the painters of the 17th century who most inspire me. The series of etchings are based on the drawings and paintings that I have made whilst in Morocco ( see and instagram: Noel_Bensted). Each print I hand draw and "pull"(print) so every one is slightly different depending on the ink I use. I print them in London using a 19th century etching press. The tradition of etching goes back 500 years."

The Evening Concert
Farida Parveen and the songs of the Samâa of Fez - «Homage to Al Shustari; of the Divine Love, from Morocco to India

The Jnan Sbil Gardens are a perfect venue for music, particularly when the weather is as mild as today.

Farida Parveen (born 1954) is a Bangladeshi folk singer. She specialises in the songs of Lalon Shah.

Parveen was born in Natore and was brought up in Kushtia. Her father worked in the health service. As a child she used to play a harmonium. In 1968, she was enlisted with Rajshahi Betar as a Nazrul singer. Farida started her career with Nazrul Geeti. In 1973, she performed the patriotic song Ei Padma Ei Meghna and the Lalon song Shatyo Bol Shupothey Chol.

Lalon, (Bengali: লালন) also known as Lalon Shah (c. 1772 – 1890) was a prominent Bengali philosopher, Baul saint, mystic, songwriter, social reformer and thinker. Considered an icon of Bengali culture, Lalon inspired and influenced many poets, social and religious thinkers including Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, and Allen Ginsberg.

Widely celebrated as an epitome of religious tolerance, he was also accused of heresy during his lifetime and after his death. In his songs, Lalon envisioned a society where all religions and beliefs would stay in harmony. Tonight in the Jnan Sbil Gardens, Farida delivered that harmony.

Her singing, sweet and melodious was full of joy and though the music was unfamiliar to most in the audience, the spirit of the songs needed no translation.

The Samâa singers were in fine form

The music switched between that of Farida Parveen and the mass chorus delivering the Samâa of Fez, which they did with great energy. The Samâa is popular in Fez and the audience clapped or sang along.

There were interludes, where a narration of Al Shustari' life was beautifully spoken. And then, as an unexpected surprise, several other groupings of well known Fez singers took to the stage perform a single number. The appearance of local star Marwan Hajji was greeted with loud applause.

Popular munshid Marwan Hajji

Musically it was a fine concert. However, there was a major downside.  The staging, set as it was on the series of steps and levels leading from the main gardens entrance down to the fountains, only allowed a select few in the audience to have a clear view of the stage. Adding to the problem was the placing of camera crews on raised areas, almost totally obstructing the limited sight-lines.

Sight-line problems for the audience were worst for those on the lowest level

It is unfortunate that the festival had not engaged a a stage manager to check out the sight-lines in advance. The location within the gardens used by the Fes Sacred Music Festival is maybe not as spectacular, but it certainly allowed everyone in the audience to see the performers.

Tomorrow at the festival...

10 am: Round Table: "The place of Sufism in contemporary Arab culture" - Medersa Bounaniya

4 pm: Round table:
"The interpretation of the Quran from a spiritual perspective" (Ishâra) -Medersa Bounaniya

8 pm: Al Firdaus "concert in Granada"  - with the participation of Ihsane Rmiki- Jnan Sbil Gardens

The performances of Ihsan Rmiki of Sama'a and Madih have been described as "wine to drink for a soul in search of ecstasy".
Photographs and text: Sandy McCutcheon

Click on links to read a full review of each day

Who are the Sufis?
Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five
Day Six
Day Seven
Day Eight

The View From Fez is an official Media Partner of the Fez Festival of Sufi Culture



johndonneundone said...

I could not see the stage or performers at all. Ateending the concert was a complete waste and we left early.PLEASE can something be done for the rest of the week so that more thsn the select few are able to enjoy the concerts.

The View From Fez said...

We have brought this to the attention of the Festival Director.