Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fez Festival of Sufi Culture - Day Five Review

Round table sessions

The first session of the day was on the theme of Central Asian Sufi culture. To the delight of the non-French speakers in the audience, Festival Director Faouzi Skali, gave brief translations in English.

With the threat of rain arriving, the audience was smaller; some sixty people, but those present were thoroughly engaged.

Faouzi Skali translating into English

The topic is vast and one that is often overlooked. Sufism in Central Asia has a long history, as Fitzroy Morrissey is an Oriental Studies Graduate of Oxford University, pointed out in an online article. For over half a millennium, Islam in Central Asia has revolved around three poles: (Hanafi) Sunnism, Persian culture and Sufism. These three are not separate but rather overlapping elements of Central Asian religious life, such that one scholar has recently declared, “Orthodox Islam and Sufism are very mingled in Tajikistan and the majority of believers are not able to make out the difference.”

Often dismissed by observers of Islamic societies – as well as by Muslim fundamentalists – as a “heterodox” or “folk” form of Islam, Sufism has in fact long been an integral part of the religious orthodoxy of Central Asia: the clerics (ulema) who guard and define that orthodoxy have traditionally enjoyed close ties to the local Sufi orders (tariqas). The Naqshbandiyya order, which arose in the Transoxanian city of Bokhara in the late-13th, early-14th century, and is the most popular order in Central Asia, is particularly well known for its sobriety and emphasis on upholding the sharia.

The afternoon discussion was moved to the Prefecture hall due to the threat of rain.

The venue is beautiful, but seemed rather large for a small audience. The topic of the living cultural heritage of Sufism was addressed by a panel that included Abdallah al-Wazzani

Prefecture Hall, Batha

Evening concert

The evening concert was moved to the Prefecture Hall in Batha. It is a large and beautiful venue, but not as acoustically suited to live music. Tonight it was packed with an audience who suspected they were to enjoy a great evening - they were not disappointed.

Daud Khan and his tabla player held the audience in the palm of their hands as they displayed, not only the musical brilliance that one would expect from master musicians, but they also tapped into the core of the Afghan Sufi spirituality.

A surprise came in the form of Francoise Atlan, who Daud Khan invited to the stage. It was a wonderful combination of talents, with Atlan's vocal quality showing that she has only improved over the years, as has her ability to inhabit the middle ground between a classically trained soprano and a lyrical singer. Her ability to naturally combine the two into a harmonious whole highlights her skill and talent as one of Morocco’s premiere vocal artists.

Francoise Atlan

Daud Khan gave a virtuoso performance, at the end of which the audience rose to their feet and demanded an encore. Humbly, Daud Khan obliged.

Some background
Daud Khan, was born in Kabul/Afghanistan in 1955. He studied Robab (a traditional lute-instrument of Afghanistan) with Ustad Muhammad Umar, who was the most famous Robab-interpreter of the classical style as well as the traditional folklore style in his country.

The knowledge about building as well as playing the Robab has become rare, and only a few artists still keep the tradition of the classical robab-style which was mainly represented by Ustad Muhammad Umar in Kabul. Daud Khan is trying to preserve this authentic style of his master’s school.

Besides that, Daud Khan has studied the North-Indian Sarod, which is a descendent instrument of the Robab, with the great Sarod Maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan in India. The ancestors of Amjad Ali Khan brought the Robab from Afghanistan to India and developed the Sarod from it.

Daud Khan is frequently performing all over Europe and participating in international music-festivals In India he was honoured twice with the Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Award (1988/1995).

Since 2004 Daud Khan is performing with the Ensemble Radio Kabul in concerts and festivals all over Europe and abroad. He participated in the Agadir Festival in Morocco and he took part in concerts with the well-known instrumentalist Jordi Savall and his ensemble.

In Cologne Daud Khan is head of the Academy of Indian Music, founded by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. There he follows his masters tradition of teaching the Robab as well as the Sarod. Daud Khan’s CD-recording Tribute to Afghanistan has been published and he participated in many CD-productions as an instrumentalist.

The second part of the evening programme was a performance by the Tariqa Sharqawiya. 

The group wasted no time in raising the tempo and energy of the night. First with purely vocal chanting, and then, with the addition of two percussion players, they had the audience up on their feet and totally enthralled. This was what many had come to the Sufi Festival to experience and tonight was their night.

The audience were soon out of their seats

With such transcendental, high octane performances, the audience were left in no doubt that this was a Sufi Festival highlight - and it was.

Tomorrow's programme
Thursday October 19th
10h-12h: Round Table: "The Mughal moment: Sufism in India" -Medersa Bounaniya

16h-18h: Round table: «Sufism and Bahkti at the Confluence of the Two Oceans» - Medersa Bounaniya

8 pm: Jnan Sbil Park
- First part: poetic and musical recital of Shiva Prakash, Katia Légeret and Bhavana Kandadai

- Second part: Tariqa Wazzaniya-Sqalliya

Photographs and text: Sandy McCutcheon

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


Morocco - Weather Alert

The Moroccan National Meteorology Office has issued a warning of local storms and showers with gusts of wind (reaching 60 km / h) and some hail storms on Wednesday and Thursday, in several regions of the kingdom.

Thunderstorms are expected in the provinces of Sefrou, Ifrane, El Hajeb, Midelt, Boulemane, Fez, Taza, Al Hoceima and Driouche.

These provinces may also experience rainfall ranging from 20 to 35 mm. Locally strong thunderstorms with gusts of wind may extend over the provinces of Larache, Tangier, Fahs-Anjra, Tetouan, Kénitra and Chefchaouen, from Wednesday  to Thursday.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Fez Festival of Sufi Culture - Day Four Review

A Sufi selfie (Click on images to enlarge)

The Fez Sufi Festival continued with slightly smaller numbers of European visitors than those on the opening weekend. Local Moroccan support, on the other hand, continues to grow
Tuesday in Fez was a beautifully mild day , mostly cloudy and with a top of only 31 Celsius, However,  the outlook for Wednesday and Thursday threatens to bring rain and thunderstorms, with top temperatures around 24 degrees.

Sufism and the art of poetry panel

The days round tables were: Sufism and the art of poetry (morning session) and Sufism and inter-religious dialogue (afternoon session).

In the afternoon, Faouzi Skali introduced the session by pointing out that Fez has historically been a meeting place of faiths - mentioning such people as Pope Sylvester II, who introduced Arab numbers to Europe after studying, culture and sciences including mathematics and astronomy, in Fez. 

Faouzi Skali also pointed out that Rabbi Moses ben Maimon,  commonly known as Maimonides, lived in Fez while he composed his acclaimed commentary on the
Mishnah in the years 1166–1168.  

Faouzi, speaking in English then asked "What about the situation today with inter-faith dialogue?".

The afternoon panel

Evening Concert

The first of the rain showers arrived in Fez mid-afternoon and then cleared away until an hour before the concert with the Tariqa Rissouniya was due to start. 

As the rain began again the stage crew were called in to cover foldback speakers and microphones. Then. some twenty minutes later, they uncovered them and prepared the stage area. 

Taking a few precautions against the rain

By the time the concert began the rain appeared to have stopped. but it did come back with a small shower an hour later.  By that stage the performance was well underway and nobody cared to move. 

The Tariqa Rissouniya are based in Chefchaouen and have a repertoire of Andalusian and sacred song. 

What is notable about the group is the youth of its members and the fact that they are happy to include an electronic synthesiser into the otherwise traditional line-up of instruments.

The tariqa comprises seven singers and seven instrumentalists.

The Tariqa Rissouniya  come across as an extremely well drilled team of musicians, albeit lacking the strong spiritual force that is at the heart of some of the older Sufi groups such as the Boutchichiyya, Issawa or Hamadcha.  This is something that will hopefully develop over time.

Young musicians with a bright future - inshallah

Tomorrow's programme

Ustad Daud Khan Sadozai - should be a festival highlight

Wednesday October 18
10h-12h: Round table: "Sufi cultures of Central Asia" - Medersa Bounaniya

16-18h: Round table: "Sufism, a living heritage" - Medersa Bounaniya

8 pm: Jnan Sbil Gardens
- First part: Concert by Ustad Daud Khan Sadozai with Robab and Sarod - Sufi music from Afghanistan

- Part Two: Tariqa Sharqawiya

PLEASE NOTE! There is a chance of rain and thunderstorms

And - for those who want more...
The 7th edition of the Festival Samaâ Marrakech for the "Rencontres et Musiques Sufies" will take place October 25th to 29th around the theme "The Samaâ releases man and completes his humanity".

Photographs and text: Sandy McCutcheon

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