Sunday, October 20, 2019

Fez Sufi Festival - Opening Night

Saturday marked the official opening of the annual Fez Festival of Sufi Culture, with the Jardin Jnan sbil providing a beautifully atmospheric backdrop for the evening’s concert to unfold. Alice Price reports...

After the universal scramble for the best seats, the 2,000 strong crowd waited in anticipation as the melange of smart suits and traditional dress took their places behind their instruments. For the more observant eye, this particular dress code seemed to embody the theme of this year’s festival, that of "Sufi culture, a spiritual humanism for our time". This particular theme aims to focus on the presence and evolution of Sufism within modern society, therefore emphasising that despite modern appearances and behaviour, Sufism still holds a strong presence in Morocco.

Faouzi Skali

Festival Director Faouzi Skali must have been very happy as the venue filled up and the programme started on time.

The opening of the concert was initiated by the Artistic Director, Carole Latifa, (pictured above) who spoke of the importance of Sufism within the spiritual capital of Fez, and in Moroccan culture as a whole. That being said, it must be remarked that once again there was no English introduction provided, which for an internationally renowned festival, proves surprising and disappointing. Perhaps this is reflective of the Festivals’ emphasis on Sufism within Moroccan and Middle Eastern culture alone, which therefore does not necessitate addressing a foreign audience.

The concert itself provided an outstanding musical display, where vocals and instruments worked together to create the perfect balance.

 Marouane Hajji - in fine voice

The first of the singers to take to the stage was that of the notable Marouane Hajji, whose performance did not disappoint. Hajji provided powerful vocals with a strong range that resonated across the jardin. Hajji’s musical excellence even incited enthusiastic participation from the crowd, with some leaving their seats to dance and clap along. Without understanding the lyrics, the musical tones and audience reactions were enough of a translation to understand that Sufism is still very much alive today.
Françoise Atlan

The next singer to take centre stage was that of Françoise Atlan, who took on a more elegant and sophisticated stance, with her effortless ability to switch from beautifully high, to smooth low notes in an instant.

Curro Piñana

The last, but certainly not least of the singers to grace the stage, was Curro Piñana, who brought a Spanish touch to the evening’s performances. Curro was accompanied by a superb guitarist, whose chords created a deep sense of nostalgia. Overall, Curro’s performance was enthusiastic and charismatic, which really brought home his sense of Spanish ​fierté.

Local Sufis got into the spirit of things

The concert itself proved to be a successful, if not slightly staid, start to the festival, which in turn makes us hopeful and intrigued for what is to come.

Also coming up this week on the Festival Fringe...

Reporting: Alice Price
Photography: Sandy McCutcheon


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