Truth be told, I had rather mixed feelings about the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music: on one hand, it is a fantastic gathering of musicians, but on the other, it is a blatant exploitation of religious music. While the festival has a strong emphasis on multiculturalism, which is a positive aspect, there is a rampant sense of materialism at the festival – a prospect that should be contradictory to “sacred” music.
Indeed, a lingering question remains, as to whether “spirituality” in music can exist when there is corporate sponsorship. How can it truly be spiritual if a profit is made? Spirituality music is supposed to be free of material chains; the music of the Divine should be accessible to all. Furthermore, music is an expression of the self; so in a sense, almost all music can be labeled as “spiritual,” as, existentially speaking, the self is a reflection of the Self.
Yet, this is all a matter of perspective; some people do not find anything negative about the festival’s approach to “spiritual,” or “sacred,” music. At one show, I met a young banker named Khalid Ben Hadine, who is from Fes. Khalid had very positive things to say about idea of the festival: “Spiritual music is more important [than contemporary music]…it helps you to be comfortable with yourself.” Khalid asserted that with, “rock and hip hop, we lose spirituality. They are too commercial.” He lamented that the youth of Morocco just “want the clothes” that the artists wear. According to Khalid, “modernization” has caused this desire for the material world. Nevertheless, with the music at the Fes Festival, the people are able to learn about “the history of my country.” The festival creates a, “good chance [opportunity] to meet old cultures” from around the world Khalid was adamant when he stated, “We need it [sacred music]. Radio is just pop, house, rap; it is so rare to find spiritual music on the radio.”
In sum, the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music is extremely well-organized festival; yet, unfortunately, due to the high cost of the tickets, it remains inaccessible to the bulk of the Moroccan population.