Thursday, October 19, 2017

Fez Festival of Sufi Culture - Day Six Review

Morning Round Table
"The Mughal moment: Sufism in India" - Sufism has a history in India evolving for over 1,000 years. The presence of Sufism has been a leading entity increasing the reaches of Islam throughout South Asia. Following the entrance of Islam in the early 8th century, Sufi mystic traditions became more visible during the 10th and 11th centuries of the Delhi Sultanate. A conglomeration of four chronologically separate dynasties, the early Delhi Sultanate consisted of rulers from Turkic and Afghan lands. This Persian influence flooded South Asia with Islam, Sufi thought, syncretic values, literature, education, and entertainment that has created an enduring impact on the presence of Islam in India today. Sufi preachers, merchants and missionaries also settled in coastal Bengal and Gujarat through maritime voyages and trade.

Various leaders of Sufi orders, tariqa, chartered the first organised activities to introduce localities to Islam through Sufism. Saint figures and mythical stories provided solace and inspiration to Hindu caste communities often in rural villages of India. The Sufi teachings of divine spirituality, cosmic harmony, love, and humanity resonated with the common people and still does so today. Music and poetry were just two of a myriad of influences that helped spread Sufism and a mystical understanding of Islam, making India a contemporary epicentre for Sufi culture today.

Afternoon Round table:
"Sufism and Bahkti at the Confluence of the Two Oceans"

The afternoon session concentrated on the Bhakti movement that swept over east and north India from the fifteenth-century onwards, reaching its zenith between the 15th and 17th century CE.

Bhakti poetry and ideas influenced many aspects of Indian culture, religious and secular, and became an integral part of Indian society. It extended its influence to Sufism.

The afternoon audience was treated to beautifully sung carnatic song performed by Shiva Prakash

Evening Concert

First part:  A poetic and musical recital by Shiva Prakash, Katia Légeret and Bhavana Kandadai. The performance was given a standing ovation and a well-deserved encore. The performers acknowledged the presence in the audience of the Indian Ambassador to Morocco, Dr. Kheya Bhattacharya.

Bhavana Kandadai explained that Fez was having its own Diwali Festival of Light - and that Sufism was about seeking that light. Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, celebrates the victory of good over evil and the triumphant return of Lord Ram to the city of Ayodha after vanquishing Ravana in the kingdom of Lanka

Katia Légeret provided French translation and explanation of the lyrics
Bhavana Kandadai - explained the cultural and historical context in English
Shiva Prakash,-accompanied by a simple drone, sang in gentle beautiful tones

- Second part: Tariqa Wazzaniya-Sqalliya

Hajj Muhammad Bennis led the 19 man Tariqa Wazzaniya- Sqalliya, in a beautiful evening of high-powered Sufi chanting.

After about 45 minutes the tariqa split into two groups. One group formed a line in front of he stage, were joined by members of the audience and provided "vocal percussion" for the second group who remained on stage.

The tempo and volume increased to a frenetic pace accompanied by a single large drum. By the time they reached the climax, the audience were joining in, bobbing and swaying in time.

The performance was a fine example of a Sufi Brotherhood, totally in command and immersed in their  repertoire.

Electronics and Sufism
Sufi followers are not averse to adapting technology to help them along. E-incense made its first appearance during the evening concert, producing small clouds of fragrant oud incense.

It is said that prayers rise with the scented smoke of agarwood incense and carry the prayer to the Creator and that the angels are attracted to the scent and Oud smoke. In which case, the angels must have been pretty happy tonight.

Tomorrow's programme

Friday October 20th
10am: Round Table: "Can we teach Sufism today as a culture?

4 pm: Round table: "Rûmi or the religion of Love: poetic of the spiritual journey"

8 pm: Jnan Sbil Park
- First part: poetic and musical recital of Leili Anvar, Frédéric Ferney and Fady Zakkar

- Part Two: Tariqa Naqshbandiya - Image result for Naqshbandiya

The Naqshbandi (Persian: نقشبندی‎‎) or Naqshbandiyah (Arabic: نقشبندية‎, translit. Naqshbandīyah‎) is a major Sunni spiritual order of Sufism. It was founded by Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Bukhari and traces its spiritual lineage to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, through Abu Bakr, the first Caliph and Muhammad's companion.

Photographs and text: Sandy McCutcheon

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


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