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Review of Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

June 4-12, 2010

Performance by Mtendeni Maulid du Zanzibar at Fes Festival of World Sacred Music
Performance by Shakila Saidi and the Rajab Suleiman Qanun Trio at Fes Festival of World Sacred Music
Performance at Fes Festival of World Sacred Music
Performance by G lay Ha er Toruk at Fes Festival of World Sacred Music
Performance at Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

At the Musée Batha in Fes, Morocco recently, deep into a moving – and grooving – set by Tanzanian vocalist Shakila Saidi and the Rajab Suleiman Qanun Trio, an ambient interruption wedged its way into the show. No, this was not a typical sonic intrusion encountered in outdoor concerts, i.e. a passing airplane, but the striking and familiar sound of the Islamic “call to prayer,” heard booming all over the city of Fes several times each day. For a few minutes, the musicians stopped and the audience quietly basked in the sound of the call to prayer before the show went on. Clearly, we were not in Kansas, or the Western world, anymore, a thoroughly liberating sensation.

Other cities in Morocco, including Casablanca, Marrakesh and Tangier, may exert a stronger magnetic pull on the tourist trade, but it is said that you haven’t really been to Morocco until you visit Fes, and especially its ancient maze-like medieval city Fes al Bali. Dating back a Millennium and change, Fes al Bali, with its narrow streets suitable only for human and donkey traffic, is the biggest and best-preserved medieval city in the Arab world, and a trip in itself. Fes, as a whole, is, in a phrase, the heart and soul of Morocco, with special emphasis on the “soul” aspect. That has made it a ripe setting for one of the world’s most unique and uniquely important festivals, the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music.

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Originally Published