Monday, August 4, 2008


First and foremost, apologies for this extended delay: my last two weeks in Morocco were extremely hectic. At the end of June, I left Morocco for Cuba, spending about a month in a Caribbean. Before I get ahead of myself, let me finish my analysis of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music…

On Thursday, June 12th, the legendary Abdelwahab Doukkali performed at the Bab El Makina. Abdelwahab Doukkali is one of the most successful Moroccan musicians of all time; to give his level of popularity some perspective, the following night at the Bab Boujloud scene, there was a tribute band that just played Abdelwahab Doukkali compositions. A. Doukkali is more than a musician; he is an institution.

This evening’s performance was entitled, “Spiritual Dialogue Between Souls.” The orchestra of Rachid Regragui, a very young but already-celebrated conductor, accompanied A. Doukkali. Typically, A. Doukkali plays contemporary music; nonetheless, tonight, he only performed traditional, religious music.

Princess Lalla Salma was in attendance; and, naturally, the audience gave her a huge ovation. (Side note, in the Moroccan royal family, the woman married to the King is not given the title “Queen,” but instead, “Princess”).

Throughout the entire evening, the performance almost felt as if it were exclusively for the Princess: that is to say, it felt as if the audience was watching in on a private music session of the royal court. All of the musicians wore tuxedos, with the sole exception of A. Doukkali who wore traditional Moroccan garb. Needless to say, it was a majestic production.

Born in Fes, A. Doukkali sings and plays the lute. Although all of the vocals are in Arabic, it is clear that the lyrics of each song reflect typical themes of the music of Sufism: the individual’s quest for a union with God.

Accompanying A. Doukkali was an orchestra of forty musicians, giving the ensemble a very full sound. Truth be told, the music was more melodic than rhythmic: there were only two percussionists. Like many other nights of the Fes Festival, the audience was very engaged, often clapping the beat.

After almost three hours of music, the performance at Bab El Makina ended, and I headed over to the Dar Tazi scene. As with every other night at Dar Tazi, this evening’s performance showcased traditional Sufi musicians. Tonight featured the Derkaouiya Brotherhood, conducted by Abdelhamid Zouya. From Larache in North Morocco, the group consists of fourteen musicians. Despite its name, the group is not an exclusively male: there are two female performers. Because of the Derkaouiya Brotherhood is from the north of Morocco, there was a definite Andalusian influence: the group had two lute players and two violists.

As always, the place was full to capacity. Once again, the audience was obliged to sit, rather than have the freedom to dance. It does seem a little odd that dancing is discouraged; and I sincerely have no idea why the rules are what they are. Regardless, the performance at Dar Tazi was a great ending to an even better evening.

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