Fes Festival of World Sacred Music
21st edition: 22-30 May 2015
The theme of the 2015 Festival is Fes: an African Reflection. It focuses on the the travels of Hassan al Wazzan, also known as Leo the African, as well as on Sidi Ahmed Tijani, the great Sufi master who is buried in Fez. You can buy tickets through the festival website or Objectif Maroc: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fez Riads can help you with accommodation and advise on guesthouses close to Festival venues.
Scroll down this page for more information about the Festival.
Note that there is a free concert at 22h30 each evening at Boujloud Square, and free Sufi Nights at 23h00 from Saturday 23 May at Dar Tazi.
FES FESTIVAL OF WORLD SACRED MUSIC
Friday 22 – Saturday 30 May 2015
Friday 22 May
Bab Makina – 21h00 Category A seats €50; Category B seats €25
Fes: in search of Africa
From desert wastes to the treasures of ancient palaces, this great musical tale evokes the spirit of African heritage. It takes its inspiration from The History & Description of Africa written by Hassan Al Wazzan (c 1490-1550, known as Leo Africanus or Yuhanna Al Assad in Arabic), as well as highlighting the history of the Tijani Sufi brotherhood. Fes and its medina is the link between Andalusia and Africa.
The performance is a tribute to these great mystical travellers who forged historic links between Morocco and the rest of Africa.
Driss al Maloumi – oud – Morocco
Ballaké Sissoko and Kora Ensemble – Mali
Masks of the Moon – Burkina Faso
Doudou N’Diaye Rose Children & the Simb Lion dance – Senegal
Nouhaila Al Kalaa – Fes, Morocco
Coumbane Mint Amartichitt – griot from Mauritania
Chérifa – Tamazight song from the Middle Atlas – Morocco
Malick Sow, Tijani master from Tivouane – Senegal
Tamango, dance – USA, French Guyana
Mohammed Bajjedoub – Tijani song - Morocco
With Saïd Taghmaoui as Hassan Wazzan (Leo the African) (to be confirmed) and Bakary Sangaré, member of the Comédie Française, as the African wise man (to be confirmed).
Direction & Production: Alain Weber
Lighting: Christophe Olivier, assisted by Gaël Boucault
Artistic advisors: Caroline Bourgine and Luciana Penna
Sound: Chris Ekers and Erik Loots
Technical direction: Hamid Anbassi
Saturday 23 May
Batha Museum – 16h30 €20
Payiz Ensemble – Persian Kurdish Tradition – Iraq
The skin on the lute trembles like living flesh. Jalal Al Din Rumi
The Kurdish soul lies between Persian heritage and Sufi inspiration, in the heart of Iraqi Kurdistan, a land now in crisis. Here its legendary sacred poetry is revived.
Since independence, the cultural capital of Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan has seen a musical renaissance resulting in the proliferation of performing artists such as the Payiz Ensemble.
The powerful resonance of the great dafs (frame drums), with their moon-like shape evoling the circle of life, creates the kind of heroic jubilation so dear to the people of the Orient, reflecting the ritual nobility of Persian music.
The balaban, an oboe of pastoral origin and the equivalent of the Armenia duduk, soars above like an eagle of the mountains producing magnificent acoustic landscapes. Its tone oscillates between sensuality and tension, representing the passionate sentiment of the Kurdish soul. Such fervour is also found in the deep, guttural voices of the singers of the group, in the manner of the ashiqs, the poets and bards of old.
Bab Makina – 21h00 Category A seats: €45; Category B seats:€22
Saber Rebaï – Tunisia
With his refined, attractive voice, Saber Rebaï is one of the most popular singers of the Maghreb. Inspired in his youth by the great performers Mohammad Abd El Wahab, Abd El Kader El Asaly, Wadih Al Safi and Abd El Halim Hafez, Rebaï has become one of the great romantic singers of our time.
Sufi Night: 23h00 at Dar Tazi: Marifat Sufi Band, Pakistan
Sunday 24 May
Batha Museum – 16h30 €20
Julie Fowlis – Scotland
Singer Julie Fowlis embodies all the beauty and fragility of Scottish Celtic tradition.
The best mirror is an old friend. Gaelic proverb
Brought up in the Outer Hebridean island of North Uist, Julie Fowlis has represented the Scottish Gaelic musical tradition for more than twelve years. Gathering the wide heritage of the islands, she brings to her songs a magical warmth and inspiring fresness that enhances the beauty of the melancholy ballads and nostalgic laments. In lively contrast, the vibrant dance tunes of the jigs and ceilidhs so dear to the Celtic soul come to life when she plays the tin whistle.
Jnan Sbil Garden – 18h00 free of charge
The Brittany Bagad Cap Caval Band and the Lamkartass Ensemble from Tissa – France & Morocco
An encounter between one of the most famous bagpipe bands of Brittany and the folk music of Tissa, in the foothills of Morocco’s Rif mountains, with more than 40 performers.
Bab Makina – 21h00 Category A seats: €40; Category B seats: €20
In the forest, branches may quarrel but their roots are entwined. Peul proverb
This year the Festival is dedicated to Africa. This concert presents Africa in its quest for identity through the music of Oumou Sangare, symbol of freedom for African women, and through the liberating spirit of African reggae.
Oumou Sangare The amazing Malian diva Oumou Sangare represents African womanhood. Recognised by UNESCO and the FAO (Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN) for her social work, Sangare is one of the brightest stars of Mali in the Wassoullou tradition south of the Niger River.
Tiken Jah Fakoly – Ivory Coast Master of African Reggae along with Alpha Blondy and the late Lucky Dube, Tiken Jah Fakoly is at the height of his career. He sings of the fundamental values of Africa.
Sufi Night: 23h00 Dar Tazi: Cherquaouia Brotherhood from Bejaad
Monday 25 May
Batha Museum – 4.30pm €15
Ballaké Sissoko (kora) and Debashish Battacharya (Indian slide guitar) – Mali & India
Two string instruments and two musical masters together create melodic inspiration for a musical journey from the banks of the Ganges to the Niger River.
Ballaké Sissoko never ceases his exploration of world music, bringing to it the gentle, sensitive sounds of the kora. It is said that the very first kora belonged to a female spirit who lived in the caves at Kansala, now in Gambia.
In the hands of Ballaké Sissoko, the many-stringed kora awakens emotions in us and touches the very deepest, forgotten part of our soul where childhood lies sleeping.
Debashish Bhattacharya is a master of melody and rhythm, and his music has a striking wealth of invention. Based on a deep knowledge of the ragas and composition, he instinctively steers his music towards universality. Just like the sitar and other lutes, the slide guitars created by Bhattacharya have sympathetic strings that generate a droning to enrich the sound while some serve as support.
Night in the Medina I
Dar Adiyel – 20h00 €20
Eduardo Ramos – Portugal
Specialising in 13th century Arab and Sephardic music, Eduardo Ramos is one of the most well-known artists in Iberian medieval music. With a background in traditional Portuguese music and moving on through rock and Afro-jazz, Ramos gradually came to concentrate on his passion for the musical repertoire of the Sephardic Jews of Portugal and Spain. He plays the oud which allows him to integrate the Arab music found historically in Andalusia.
Sidi Mohamed Ben Youssef Cultural Complex – 20h00 and 22h30 €20
Masks of the Moon – Bwaba Ritual – Burkina Faso
This extraordinary magical ritual lies at the heart of the griot village of Baraba.
Sun, moon, stars
In the sky there are lots of stars,
There are whole tribes
Of men, women and children, long since become stars San proverb
This inspirational ritual is both ancient and contemporary and is the expression of all that is magical about Africa. The sumbo poa or white masks are also called ‘masks of fabric’ belong to the griots of Bereba. These griots are masters of the spoken word, faithful guardians of the oral tradition, trusted keepers of ancestral customs and musicians for all occasions: the griots are responsible for all music in the Bwaba community.
The masks are made of fabric with crests that are richly decorated with cowrie shells, and are only brought out at full moon. They seem connected to some cosmic force beyond us.
Batha Museum – 21h00 €25
Marassa Premiere – USA, Cuba & France
Omar Sosa, piano, keyboards, voice and electronic effects
Tamango, tap dance, voice and percussion
Gustavo Ovalles, voice and percussion
VJ Naj, video projections
In the great melting-pot that is the world’s cultural landscape, Omar Sosa is one of the most iconic musicians. An artist of striking ability, his visionary music is produced in a particularly subtle and coherent way, producing a conception of the world that is both compound and syncretic. His collaboration with Urban Tap (tap dancer Tamango and video artist Jean de Boysson) is an illustration of this.
These brand new creations by Urban Tap draw on a number of different cultures and artistic forms: ancestral traditions and new technology, animism and urban culture, jazz and captivating rhythms, claps and hip hop dance, multimedia stage design, and VJing. The result is a performance full of life and humanity that touches the greater public, no matter their age or background.
Dar Adiyel – 22h30 €20
The Royal Art of the Kora
Ballaké Sissoko invites more than a dozen musicians to take part in this sumptuous performance featuring the kora, the royal harp of the Mandinka empire.
The kora is an African stringed instrument, a Mandinka harp-lute found in Senegal, Mali, Gambia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. According to legend, the first kora belonged to a female spirit who lived in the caves of Kansala in Gambia. Impressed and moved by the music of this instrument, a great warrior, Tiramakhan Traore, decided to steal it from the spirit. Aided and abetted by his hunting companions, Waly Kelendjan and Djelimaly Oulé Diabaté, Traore snatched the instrument which fell to Djelimaly, the griot of the group. Djelimaly passed it on to his son Kamba. And so it was passed from father to son up until Tilimaghan Diabaté introduced it to Mali.
Sufi Night: 23h00 at Dar Tazi: Aissawa Brotherhood with Haj Said Guissi
Tuesday 26 May
Batha Museum – 16h30 €15
Roberto Fonseca and Fatoumata Diawara – Cuba & Mali
An encounter between a young griot and Cuban music, both inherited from Africa.
As people were taken from Africa and forced into slavery, so their music went with them, giving rise to a multitude of hybrid musical styles in North America (blues, jazz, gospel, soul, funk, rap and rock) and in the Caribbean (salsa, rumba, merengue and calypso). Today, African musicians are reclaiming their universal African heritage.
This performance underscores the link between two musical styles originating in Africa.
Roberto Fonseca’s dazzling, funky finger work is exactly right for transposing the soul of Africa. This virtuoso pianist played for some time with the Buena Vista Club of the early 2000s, and knows more than anyone about the links between Cuban and African music, from salsa to the sacred origins of rumba.
Delicate, yet lively and spirited, Fatou Diawara’s guitar picking is inspired by the Wassalou harp. She is part of a new generation of African artists bringing their own personal touch to tradition and tapping into an African culture that defines them in a new way across the world.
Night in the Medina II
Dar Adiyel – 20h00 €20
Li Daiguo, Pipa, Cello and Beatbox – China
Young Chinese musician Li Daiguo celebrates nature in his own way : contemplative and inventive, as well as contemporary.
A member of China’s new music scene that navigates between traditional arts and urban, baroque expressionism, Li Daiguo brings his own touch of nature and spirituality to current music. He uses a multitude of different instruments, from the traditional Chinese lute, the pipa, to the vocal technique known as beatbox. It’s not surprising, then, that Li Daiguo can be found between the little town of Dali in Yunnan province and Los Angeles.
Sidi Mohamed Ben Youssef Cultural Complex – 20h00 €20
Sonia Mbarek – Tunisia
The famous Tunisian singer presents a special creation for the Festival featuring Sufi poetry.
We are the protectors of the Sun.
There is only one reason we have followed God into this world:
To encourage laughter, freedom, dance and love.
With a background of Sufi contemplation, Sonia Mbarek sings sumptuous works by the great poets inspired by peace and personal joy, such as Andaloussi, Mohamed Iqbal, Ibn El Faredh and Khaled Oueghlani. Composers Fathi Zghonda, Rachid Yedess and Sonia Mbarek herself have brought to these works delightful music of great simplicity.
The rhythms have been chosen in accordance with those used in the various styles of Sufi inshad, such as daffa, Dkhoul, Btaïhi, Aissaoui, Wahda and more. These are allied to the mood of tarab (musical ecstasy) and the tempo of spiritual song perpetually in search of trance and exaltation of the spirit.
Batha Museum– 21h00 €25
Diego Al Cigala – Spain
With guest singer Benjamin Bouzaglou
Each thing has its own mystery and poetry is the mystery all things have. Federico García Lorca
Diego Ramón Jiménez Salazar was born in Madrid into a family of performers. His diminutive stature combined with his powerful voice led no less a figure than the famous Camarón de la Isla to name him “El Cigala”.
He is considered one of the most innovative flamenco singers of today; his varied musical journeys have pushed him towards Cuban music and Argentine tango. Passionate, profound, intense and tender, Al Cigala’s voice is perfectly suited to such emotion as is described as coming close to losing one’s senses, as in Arab tarab, or musical ecstasy.
The word duende derives in etymological terms from the expression dueño de la casa or master of the house. According to popular belief, the duende is a spirit that comes to upset the house. Its second meaning is rooted in the region of Andalusia. Duende indicates a mysterious and unspeakable charm that is found in flamenco in moments of grace and related to scenes of enchantment.
Earthy as is required in the passion of flamenco, yet ethereal in inspiration, Diego Al Cigala has swiftly become a master of the cante jondo, the profound song of this tradition in which gypsies excel, coming as he does from a family with close ties to the art.
Dar Adiyel 22h30 €20
The Sacred World of Mugham – Azerbaijan
Arzu Alieva, voice
Elchan Mansurov, kamancheh (string instrument)
Malik Mansuro, tar (long-necked string instrument)
Shirzaa Fazalieve, balaban (double-reed wind instrument)
Mugham expressed the varied emotions of exaltation and is found in the great poetic traditions of the Caucasus and Iran. This poetry sings of mountains and palaces, of the desire to be loved, the wretchedness of separation or the inconstancy of a lover, the beauty of the land and the splendour of God.
The mugham of Azerbaijan is one of the most brilliant aspects of classical music of the east. The result of many centuries of maturing in the transition of Turkish tradition and classical Persian music, Azeri music has also benefited from exchange with other cultures and has found its most perfect expression in the mugham, a vast vocal and instrumental oeuvre that depicts with great passion and refinement a whole range of expressions of love, as ethnomusicologist Pierre Bois tells us.
Sidi Mohamed Ben Youssef Cultural Complex – 22h30 €20
Nawab Khan & the Mantra Band
Music is the divine language of human emotion.
Somewhere between contemplation and meditation, we are transported by the meanderings of Indian ragas, with the ethereal, crystalline sounds of the santoor and sarangi, the instruments with a thousand and one tones.
Nawab Khan, a young classical musician from Jodhpur in Rajasthan, plays with his brothers the Persian and Kashmiri santoor (stringed instrument), the sarangi (dulcimer) and tabla to guide us through the therapeutic, emotional labyrinth that is Indian music.
Sufi Night: 23h00 at Dar Tazi: Machichiya Brotherhood – Imam Ghazali Ensemble
Wednesday 27 May
Night in the Medina III
Dar Adiyel – 20h00 €20
The epic Hilal story from the Poets of Upper Egypt
Ramadan Hassan and the Musicians of the Nile
These men are very brave and very rich. They are part of the 6000-strong cavalry and are well-armed.
From The History and Description of Africa by Leo Africanus
Mentioned by Hassan Al Wazzan (Leo the African), the Hilal epic is still sung by a few poets in Upper Egypt. It tells of the invasion of the Maghreb during the 11th century by the Beni Hilal and Beni Soleim tribes from the Arab Peninsula. The great emblematic figure of this epic is Abou Zeid Al-Hilali, a warrior and poet (chaer) who, according to the story, was ‘as black as a raven’.
Plenty of other people appear in this tale : Khalifa Zanati, Caliph of the Zenata tribe, Emir El Moiziz Ben Badis known as Al Allam, Yunis Al Hilali and his nephews Merai, Yahya and above all, Yunes Al Hilalx who would give rise to the great love story between him and Aziza, daughter of the Zenata prince, Al-Wahidi Mebed.
The Hilal epic is one of great beauty, and the last evocation of this ancient nomadic world, so violent and passionate.
There are still traces of this tale in Upper Egypt, a region that has not yet succumbed to the mediocrity of western culture dominated by television.
Today, only poets of gypsy origin (Masalib, Mataqil and Halab) still sing this story accompanied by a fiddle with two horsehair strings, the rababah, that has a coconut shell body (djoz hind), just like the Arab rabab of Iraqi maqam.
Sidi Mohamed Ben Youssef Cultural Complex – 19h00 €20
From 18h00: come early to watch the ritual preparation and make-up of the actors
Bhagavata Mela Ritual and Sacred Theatre – from Melattur village in Tamil Nadu - India
Words and sense are the body of poetry; rasa [taste] is its essence. Bharata, René Daumal, Gallimard
This sacred theatre group is making its first trip beyond the Hindu Temple of Melattur. India was home to some of the first ritual theatre, and this popular form of entertainment is inherited from ancient Sanskrit theatre. It celebrates the God Vishnu and his incarnation Krishna, with more than twenty artists.
This form of theatre from South India is particularly moving. It is one of the last forms of ritual theatre in the sub-continent. The village artists are deeply religious and for them, what counts more than any artistic idea is making the gods come to life, almost incarnating them.
In the village of Melattur in Tamil Nadu, an exciting event takes place each year during the Bhagavata Mela Nataka Festival which falls on the birthday of Lord Narashima, the fourth incarnation of Vishnu. Created by ‘divine anger’, it symbolises the battle against evil and tyranny. It wears a terrifying lion mask and is armed with claws.
The Bhagavata Mela of Melattur is one of the last surviving examples of temple theatre and our only link today with the ancient Sanskrit theatre of Tamil Nadu. The tradition began some four centuries ago with the Hindu religious movement, Bakthi. Other similar forms of theatre still exist elsewhere.
Composed in Telugu by Venkatarama Sastry (1743-1809), the Bhagavata Mela pieces are presented each year in honour of the Natya Shastra vedas. Characters are played exclusively by Brahmin men. The dances, songs and gestures are taught orally and each family plays an hereditary role. Some twenty artists are on stage here for the first time outside their temple.
Batha Museum – 21h00 €25
Paolo Fresu and A Filetta - Sardinia & Corsica
Dance memory, dance
The great masters of Corsican polyphonic voices meet Sardinian trumpet player Paolo Fresu for a Mediterranean musical encounter of deep spirituality.
The Corsican polyphonic ensemble A Filetta with Paolo Fresu, jazzman in the Sardinian tradition, and Italian bandoneon (concertina) player Daniele Di Bonaventura, have together created a group based on the island poets Aimé Césaire and Jean Nicoli. Césaire was a writer, poet and playwright from Martinique; Nicoli was a teacher and member of the resistance, executed in 1943 during the Italian facist period.
In choosing these two brilliant humanist thinkers, we are reminded of the idea of sacrifice. To overcome the self in order to idealise a cause is an act that can be considered spiritual.
Corsicans and Italians, polyphonists and jazzmen, singing, playing trumpet and bandoneon, highlight the ideas and dreams of these great thinkers in a profound and inspiring musical performance.
Sidi Mohamed Ben Youssef Cultural Complex – 22h30 €20
Badr Rami – Syria & Morocco
The great Muwashshah tradition of Aleppo
Born in Morocco but now living in Syria, Badri Rami grew up in a family of music-lovers. He began his musical training at his father’s side, the violin maestro Mohamed Rami Zeitouni. His artistic career began at the end of the 1990s, and he quickly acquired the authentic, traditional style that has made him so successful in Arab classical music.
He demonstrates the art of interpreting the Quodud Halabiya, traditional songs of the historic, musical Syrian city of Aleppo, in the style of the late Sabah Fakri.
Rami trained in Casablanca with the great Moroccan oud player, Haj Younes, and is also supported by well-known Arab artists such as Egyptian composer Mohammed Sultan and Moroccan composer Hassan El Kadmiri.
Sufi Night 23h00 at Dar Tazi: Skaliyya Brotherhood – the Imam al Bosseiri Ensemble with Haj Mohammed Bennis
Thursday, May 28th
Medina Morning – Batha Museum – 11h00 €10
Piano recital: Arabesque An approach to Arab classical music
Leaving Morocco at the age of 13 to continue his musical training in Hungary, Marouane Benabdallah now returns to his roots to the explore the rhythms and melodies of his youth.
His project Arabesque is the fruit of much research into the works of classical composers of the Arab world. It is a repertoire almost unknown to the greater public in which the modes and rhythms of Arab music meld with the forms and structures of western classical music to create an original and unique synthesis.
Some of the pieces in the programme are religiously inspired, such as La nuit du destin (Night of Destiny) by Dia Succari, alluding to the blessed 27th night of the sacred month of Ramadan; Badrou Hosnen by Zad Moultaka composed for the Maqam Siba, one of the modes used in the psalms of the Qur’an; and Al Male Rachamim by Mohammed Fairouz, a prayer that is part of Jewish funerary rites.
Batha Museum – 16h30
Nabil Benabdeljalil and the Zakharif Ensemble – Morocco €15
The Zakharif Ensemble is composed of various artists performing with the young Moroccan composer and musicologist Nabil Benabdeljalil. Founded on principles both aesthetic and technical, the group’s diversity is at the heart of their creativity. Of various backgrounds and musical training, they make use of improvisation and variation to recreate ancient Arab music, including the Nahda Egyptian tradition of the long songs of Oum Kalsum.
Bab Makina – 21h00 Category A seats: €60; Category B seats: €30
The Temptations – USA
with Dennis Edwards
Legends of Rhythm & Blues
This acclaimed Motown group reinvents its Rhythm & Blues origin to inspire a whole new generation of musicians around the globe. The impact of soul, blues and gospel has led to African music having a significant influence on all genres of popular music, from raï to rock.
The Temptations are, without doubt, the most well-known male singing group in the history of rock and soul music. A veritable institution created by Otis Williams, they were one of the pillars of the famous Tamla Motown label, that sent rhythm and blues across the world to become such a great influence on the British rock scene from the Rolling Stones to the Who to the Small Faces.
Sufi Night 23h00 at Dar Tazi: Darqawiyya Brotherhood : Dar Samaa, Taza
Friday 29 May
Batha Museum – 16h30 €20
Amen en la voz del Hombre - Saeta sacred song
from an original idea by Andres Marin
Jesus de la Mena
Javier Trigos, clarinet
Miguel Maceda, bassoon
Angel Sanchez, oboe
Chamber music with oboe, clarinet, bassoon and three exceptional voices to sing the Saeta of Seville: mystical songs of praise and invocations to God and the Virgin that express deep spiritual feelings.
Through Flamenco romances, peteneras and seguiriyas, the soul of Andalusia and the Sevillian processions are brought to life.
The Saeta of Seville with its poetic declamations of yesteryear is the mystical song in which man cries out and sings from the depths of his emotions to God and the Virgin.
During the religious processions and celebrations, inspired verses, praises and stirring words from the soul are cast heavenwards like arrows. The saeta can be sombre and precise in some Andalus villages, but from the 19th century, it could also become more ‘flamenco’ or more embellished and lively. This is the case today when the saetas are also called saetas flamencas.
Bab Makina – 21h00 Category A seats: €40; Category B seats: €20
Arabo- Andalous Orchestra of Fes, directed by Mohammed Briouel
Beihdja Rahal (Algeria), Sonia Mbarek (Tunisia), Sanaa Maharati, Nabile Maan, Marouane Haji (all of Morocco)
In the capable hands of master Mohamed Briouel, Andalous music shines forth in the great traditions of the Maghreb and Lebanon.
A night of Andalous music at the Festival of World Sacred Music has become a tradition. It marks the history and heritage of which Fes is so proud, its own Andalousia.
Mohammed Briouel is master and keeper of the Al-âla repertoire, securing the tradition that he holds with infinite refinement.
With Briouel and his musicians around him, we set off this year towards other places and other styles that, during various historic revivals, have themselves become keepers of this same heritage, each with its own personal touch.
In the school of Algiers, in Tunisian malouf (classical music), and also in the Moroccan tradition, it is principally women who perform this art: Beihdja Rahal of Algeria is one of the Andalous singers most closely associated with the roots of this art; the famous Sonia Mbarek of Tunisia has radiated the art of malouf across the Arab world; and the young Andalus singers Sanaa Maharati and Nabile Maan who represent Morocco along with the exceptionally talented Marouan Haji, are well known today to the Moroccan public.
The Algiers school belongs to the tradition of sana’a from Cordoba, while that of Tunis bears an Ottoman influence in their use of Turkish modes (maqâmat) and compositional forms (for example, bashraf and samai), while remaining deeply Maghrebi and Arab-Andalous in spirit.
The Tunisian malouf repertoire was collected and defined in the 18th century by the Bey, Mohamed el Rashid, and consolidated in the 20th century by the Rachidia, the Tunisian national music school dedicated to preserving the tradition. In its purest form, each suite (nuba) is based on a single quarter-tone mode (maqam), so blending the structure of North African Adalous with Ottoman temperament.
Sufi Night 23h00 at Dar Tazi: Hamdouchiyya Brotherhood with Abderrahim Amrani
Saturday 30 May
Batha Museum – 16h30 €20
Faada Freddy – Senegal
Gospel revisited by African Rap singer Abdoul Fatah Seck
Body percussion, heartbeats and finger clicks enliven this very African and innovative soul music.
Faada Freddy is part of Daara J, one of the biggest rap groups in Senegal. Here he presents a performance with no instruments but for voice and body percussion. With heartbeats and finger clicks, Faada Freddy fascinates with his singular voice to produce a refined form of pop music full of soul and gospel, two of the major genres that have their origins in African music.
Bab Makina – 21h00 Category A seats: €50; Category B seats: €25
Hussain Al Jasmi – United Arab Emirates
Hussain Al Jasmi has one of the most beautiful voices of the Arab peninsula. He presents a secular and religious repertoire full of the emotion and feeling that has made him so popular in the Maghreb.
Hussain El Jasmi is at the pinnacle of khaliji music in the Arabian peninsula. While his backing ensemble is contemporary, the foundations of a truly poetic culture lie behind his music today.
The richness of the lyrics and the love of the ancestral poetry of the Arabs of sea and desert remain vibrant.
Poetry has always been an intrinsic part of the national culture, with its long tradition of oral transmission enhanced by the Qur’an. In Bedouin culture, anyone who can write a verse with eloquence is looked upon with almost religious respect.
Hussain El Jasmi’s voice is at once versatile and artful, reminding us of the raw beauty of the voices of pearl fishers or Bedouin poets.
Sufi Night 23h00 at Dar Tazi: Hadra (women’s group) from Chefchaouen with Khayra Afazaz
SPIRIT OF FES FOUNDATION
Forum : 23-27 May
Fes: an African Reflection
Throughout its history from the Middle Ages to the present day, Fes has always been at the crossroads of political, religious and scientific thought, as well as a commercial hub with roots in both medieval Andalusia and sub-Saharan Africa.
This year, the Spirit of Fes Foundation has chosen as its theme for the Forum the links between Fes and the rest of Africa to the south. Two figures stand out here: Hassan Al Wazzan, better known as Leo the African, who was a great intellectual and diplomat from the early 16th century, and Sidi Ahmed Al Tijani, who at the beginning of the 19th century, founded the Sufi order that bears his name. They both began their journeys in Fez, a city that influenced them greatly.
For these men, as for so many other people, Fes was an important centre for intellectuals and traders travelling between North Africa and the West. Those who spread knowledge and those who traversed the trade routes between Fes and Timbuctoo or Dakar not only crossed paths, but were sometimes one and the same. Andalusian Fes was undeniably African.
Even today, any analysis of the dissemination of knowledge and spirituality in Africa – of which Fes has long been a depositary – must take into account the linguistic pluralism of African nations. This pluralism has a long history which is recorded in only a few formal archives, but it is conveyed by ancient texts held in the zaouias (saints’ sanctuaries) and transmitted through nomadic oral traditions that could be questioned. The bedrock of multiple secular societies with their diverse treasures, Africa is also very much the continent of youth.
The Fes Festival this year celebrates the richness of language through voice and the richness of music through instruments, song and techniques. From Sama’ (religious invocation) to Gospel, an all-encompassing familial feeling is engendered.
Africa faces a number of challenges: issues of education and health form the basis of meaningful development. These issues include disease prevention, vaccination, access to clean drinking water, sanitation, education around hygiene, family planning, primary health care, lack of health workers, access to medication, and the dissemination of health information. The Fes Forum provides an opportunity for the world to reflect on Africa.
Morocco’s destiny is resolutely tied to Africa’s destiny. The Fes Forum and the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music support this view.
Forum morning sessions at the Batha Museum: €10 per morning, or a Forum Pass at €35
Spiritual paths and trade routes
Trade routes have always run in parallel with spiritual paths. Today, we consider the question of how Africa is presented in school textbooks. The issue of the knowledge taught in African schools and universities is also addressed.
Linguistic pluralism in Africa
Linguistic pluralism is an aspect shared by all African countries. How can these languages be conserved? What does the UNESCO World Heritage Convention tell us about cultural diversity?
Africa and the sacred
Africa is the cradle of many visions of the cosmos that encompass magic, animism, the supernatural and monotheistic beliefs. There is also a wide range of Sufi orders such as Tijaniya and Qadriya. How do these world views inform a way of life?
Hassan Al Wazzan (Leo the African): portraying Africa
Hassan Al Wazzan was an important diplomat in the service of the Wattasid king of Fes. He traversed wide swathes of Africa with his diplomatic credentials and eventually wrote a description of Africa for the Pope at the Vatican. Born in Granada, he became a Fassi and a Roman: was he an intellectual migrant?
Contemporary challenges: education, health and geostrategy
The Forum gives us the opportunity to debate the great challenges of our time. Education and health are two indications of development. How can we put them into perspective today?
- Afternoon concerts are held in the garden of the Batha Museum (see map reference blue 1 here). Note that there is no afternoon concert on Wednesday.
- Big evening concerts are held at Bab al Makina, the open-air parade ground in front of the Royal Palace. It’s off the western edge of this map, across Boujloud Square.
- Free concerts are held each evening at Boujloud Square, close to Bab Boujloud.
- Nights in the Medina concerts (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) are held in smaller venues including the music conservatory Dar Adiyel (blue 5), Sidi Mohamed Ben Youssef Cultural Complex (blue 4) and the Batha Museum (blue 1).
- Sufi Nights are free of charge and are held in the garden of Dar Tazi, the Festival headquarters (blue 2).
- The Fes Forum is held on the first five mornings of the festival (ie Saturday to Wednesday) at the Batha Museum. Most of the proceedings are in French, but there is simultaneous translation into English and Arabic. You may ask questions in English as most of the panel members speak it.
Seating and Ticketing
- Seats are not reserved. Get to the venue in plenty time if you want a good seat.
- Seats are raked at Bab al Makina; elsewhere they are on the flat. There are no chairs at the Nights in the Medina or Sufi Nights venues, but carpets on the floor. At the Batha Museum, there is some seating on carpets on the floor in front of the stage in addition to the chairs.
- At Bab al Makina, you can buy A or B seats. A seats are located closer to the stage; B seats towards the back of the auditorium.
- There are side screens at Bab al Makina, one on each side of the stage.
- As an indication, a pass to all events costs 305 Euros and automatically includes A seats for concerts at Bab al Makina.
- You can buy tickets on this site now, right here. Payment is via Paypal, using your credit card. You do not need a Paypal account to use this efficient and safe system. Tickets will be delivered to your guesthouse if you are staying in the medina; other arrangements will be made if you are staying elsewhere.
- Weather can be variable: it can rain, be very cold and windy at Bab al Makina, or stiflingly hot. It’s best to bring layers, something waterproof, a sunhat and a fan.
- Seats are not particularly comfortable. If necessary, bring a cushion.
- Consider taking a trip or arranging an activity on Wednesday as there is no afternoon concert. You’ll find some ideas here. Contact us to book.
- Reserve your accommodation in good time as guesthouses closest to festival venues fill up quickly. Getting to the venues is always on foot.
- Many restaurants serve dinner early and/or later so that you can attend evening concerts. Keep an eye on the What’s Hot! page on this site.
- Who was Leo the African? Amin Maalouf’s book is a great introduction.