Fès: A festival of spirituality and music


The 17th World Sacred Music Festival kicked off June 3 in Fes, the charming Moroccan city of majestic hills and ancient walls, with a dazzling opera based on that eternal love story, Layla and Majnun.

Under the artistic direction of the Morocco-reared and Paris-based composer, Armand Amar, at the historical Bab Al Makina, the show was a veritable medley of global musical traditions that included vocalists and percussionists from Europe, Africa, South Asia, Iran and Mongolia. It featured percussion of Shanghai, drums of Japan, Armenian wind instrument duduk and Maghrib’s own stringed instrument oud.

The musical diversity of the opera, specially commissioned for the occasion, set an ideal stage for performances that would follow. Besides local artists, performers from several nations, including Afghanistan, Brazil, Ethiopia, France, India, Italy, Pakistan, Senegal, Spain and the US, are taking part in the 10-day festival, which ends on June 12.

For the first time, the Fes festival has a strong Indian presence with three groups. The first of these was cine concert, “Prem Sanyas (the Light of Asia),” a 1925 silent masterpiece that is accompanied by live music.

Today, musicians from Manganiar and Langa traditions will present “Sufi chants of the Thar Desert.” On Tuesday, brothers Umakant Gundecha and Ramakant Gundecha performed “Sacred Art of Dhrupad.”

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