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MOROCCO: Dispatch from Fez: Sounds and scenes from the World Sacred Music Festival

June 18, 2010 | 12:25 pm

The labyrinthine Arab-style medina of Fez, Morocco’s historical capital of trade, culture and religious life, was a remarkable space for the 16th Annual World Sacred Music Festival June 4-13. The expansive and diverse event, with about 60 performances, took place in the walled city's public spaces, traditional palaces and places of worship. The festival, originally started by Moroccan anthropologist Faouzi Skalli in 1994, seems to have spawned a growing worldwide trend of sacred music festivals, including the World Festival of Sacred Music in Los Angeles, which is held every three years.

Performers included Amadou and Mariam, a blind couple from Mali who have become international stars; and Jordi Savall, a Catalan composer who is a major figure in early music. There also was an emphasis on providing space for endangered traditions. “Some of these artists are seemingly rejected by globalization, and their traditions are sometimes in danger of disappearing,” said Alain Weber, the artistic director of the festival.

“Sacred” took many forms, from the mystic Sufi poetry of Ustad Gholam Hossain of Afghanistan to the energetic rapping of Casa Crew from Morocco. Groups associated with religious institutions, such as the Baghdad-Jerusalem group, played traditional Jewish music of Baghdad. At the same time, there were numerous performances that are not typically described as “sacred.”

Continue reading: Dispatch from Fez: Sounds and scenes from the World Sacred Music Festival 

-- Merrit Kennedy

Joe Lukawski contributed to this report.