Monday, October 16, 2017

Fez Festival of Sufi Culture - Day Three Review

Click on images to enlarge

The third day of the Sufi Festival started with a wet weather alert. According to some forecasters there is a chance of evening rain on Monday and possibly showers through until Wednesday - no rain appeared, but it was a day with a big surprise

The Round Tables

The round table discussions continued to draw large audiences with well chosen topics and interesting guests.

The first forum discussed the place of Sufism in contemporary Arab culture. An audience member remarked to The View From Fez, that "contemporary Islamic culture" would have been an even broader discussion. But perhaps too wide for a single forum session.

Yet, this was a fascinating discussion, ranging as it did, over contemporary literature, fiction, poetry, song and even contemporary calligraphy.

The audience was thoroughly engaged and gave the speakers warm applause and at times, vocal encouragement!
The audience were animated!
The morning forum

The afternoon forum centred on the interpretation of the Qu'ran from a spiritual perspective. Again, it was a high-powered panel of academics.

The afternoon forum panel

The evening concert

The big surprise of the day was the changing of the venue for the evening concerts. When we approached Festival Director, Faouzi Skali, and suggested that the sight-lines for the concert stage were such that very few people could see anything, he agreed to think about it. Think he did, and he is to be congratulated for rapidly coming up with an elegant solution.

Faouzi Skali acted decisively to change the venue

He moved the venue further down the Jnan Sbil Gardens to a beautiful forested area where all patrons were on the same level and could watch the concerts in comfort.  He also turned it into "theatre in the round" with seats on all sides. Our thanks go to Faouzi for acting so decisively.

The concert was in two parts. The first featured Farida Parveen, the Bangladeshi folk singer who specialises in the songs of Lalon Shah.

Farida Parveen was in fine form and more relaxed than she had been on the opening night where she shared the stage with the samaa singers.  Although seated down on the ground, she filled the stage with her energy and the beauty of her songs.

Her fellow musicians also rose to the occasion, particularly the flautist, who played at times with profound delicacy and at others, like an excited bird on steroids!  The audience loved it.

The second part of the evening brought the first of the Sufi Brotherhoods to the stage -  the Tariqa Qadiriyya Boutchichiyya.

The striking thing about the tariqa that presented tonight was the age of the twelve musicians. They were all young men, and more than that, young men with talent.

The changed venue also provided better sound and the limited and judicious use of echo on the vocals added another dimension to the performance.

For the local people in the audience, this was a familiar and spiritually uplifting treat. For first time visitors it was a revelation that peace and harmony spring from the Sufi sphere.

The Boutchichiyya, - a Sufi tradition in safe younger hands

A little background...
The word tariqa in the name of a group, such as Tariqa Boutchichiyya, literally means ‘the way’. In this context it means the Sufi way, literally a path, a road, which, when applied to Sufism will relate to a specific order, but they think of it as the way to God. A lot of Sufis will say "there are many paths, and this is our path."

Much of what is performed is known as samaà - a form of Sufi music, and the literal translation from Arabic is "audition", or "to listen or to hear", but with spiritual connotations. It also refers to a ritual that takes place in a zawiya, Arabic for the corner of a Sufi house or meeting place, often attached to a Mosque, and which would suggest that the original samaâ used to meet in a corner.

The Brotherhood are a purely vocal group and the Boutichichiyya are blessed with some extraordinary voices. Among the various munshid (soloists) in the group, there were a number of superb singers.

The music differs from most Moroccan forms in that there are interesting hints of the eastern-Arabic macam modal system. At different times different munshid would take solo parts, called mawwal, a form of improvised singing where they use poetry and improvise melodic passages using words that they have written in front of them. All the singers had a great command of the macam and mawwal.

Sufism is very focussed on the prophet Mohammed. Muslims are also, but Sufism tends to prophet centred.

A lot of the poetry in samaâ is about the prophet, for example, al-Burda – the name means 'poem of the mantle' or 'of the cloak'.

The poem was written in the 11th century by Imam al-Busiri and forms part of a vast body of literature in praise of the Prophet that emerged from an Islamic culture where seeking knowledge of him was encouraged.

In writing al-Burda, or Qasida Burda, Imam Al-Busiri acknowledges the shortcomings of describing the Prophet in the poem itself.

He is like the sun,
small to the eye when seen from afar,

But when glimpsed close up.
It dazzles and overwhelms - 

Tomorow's programme

Tuesday October 17
10h-12h: Round table: "Sufism, art and poetry" - Medersa Bounaniya

16h-18h: Round table: "Sufism and inter-religious dialogue" - Medersa Bounaniya

8 pm: Tariqa Rissouniya - from the Zaouia Rissouniya in Tetouan- Jnan Sbil Park

Text and photographs: Sandy McCutcheon. Additional notes: Philip Murphy Jr and Fitzroy Morrissey

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


No comments: