Sacred Music Festival of Fez. 2013

Fes: Reflections of Andalusia

This is the theme of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music 2013 to be held from 7-15 June. The period of Al Andalus spanned eight centuries – from the 8th to the 15th –  and was a time of remarkable tolerance and acceptance: Muslims, Christians and Jews cohabited peacefully in the Iberian Peninsula. A rich cultural tradition grew of music, art, poetry and courtly love.
Many of the great thinkers of the time passed through Fes, spending time there teaching or studying at the Qarawyine University. These included Maimonides, the Jewish physician and philosopher whose lodgings in the medina still stand today near the Water Clock and the Bouanania Medersa. Others were Ibn Tofail, Averroes, Raymond Lull and the great poet, Ibn ‘Arabi.


The beautiful poster designed for this year’s festival features one of these philosophers in conversation with Nizam, also known as Harmony, who is his source of inspiration. In the background is the woman herself – the muse, who represents the feminine creator. In her universe, historical truths and symbolic representations meld: there is a courtyard where scholars recline, studying wise manuscripts; an Andalusian garden composed of rare plants; magical animals;  the fabulous bird the simorgh; Arabian horses royally caparisoned; a peacock.

The programme for the festival celebrates the concept of Andalusia. Artistic Director Alain Weber tells us ‘The Amazigh, Arab, flamenco, Muslim, Jewish and Christian aspects of Andalusia will be brought to life at the opening concert, under the artistic direction of the great contemporary flamenco dancer Andres Marin, with Carmen Linares and a large number of artists representing all these Andalusias.’

Particular attention is paid to the feminine which was such an important aspect of Andalus culture, with a substantial number of women performers including Francoise Atlan, Rosemary Standley, Aicha Redouane, Mauritanian griot Coumbane Mint Ely Warakane and Abir Nehme.

There are some remarkable combinations of performers in this programme which underscore the premise of Convivencia or living together in harmony: Sardinian polyphony matched with Mongolian khoomi overtone chant; a Greek Orthodox choir from Istanbul performing with the Mevlevi whirling dervishes; and Bengali khyal chant teamed with Baroque music.

There are two innovations this year: the recently renovated Jnan Sbil Gardens will be open throughout the Festival and will feature Egyptian song and acrobats from Tangier. At Dar Mokri, one afternoon is dedicated to workshops with masters of  choreography and music. Both of these are most welcome additions to the Festival lineup.

For the programme, see the Festival’s website.

Original article written by Helen Ranger for Concierge Morocco

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