• Oujda hosts third international rai festival

    Lug 28 2009, 10:44

    Thousands of Moroccan rai fans gathered from Thursday through Saturday (July 25th) for a three-day international music event in Oujda, the capital of Morocco's Oriental region. Big-name Maghreb rai singers Rachid Berriah, Bilal, Reda Taliani, Cheba Zehouania, Mohamed Lamine and others captivated large audiences of dedicated rai enthusiasts.

    The event, which featured both traditional Moroccan folk music and modern songs, aimed to bring together international rai stars and also establish a reputation as one of Morocco's top arts spectaculars, festival director Farid Chourak told Magharebia.

    "It's a landmark event for musicians," said frequent participant Rachid Berriah. The well-known artist said the Oujda international festival was an opportunity for singers to meet and promote rai music.

    Mohamed Lamine agreed, saying that he felt fortunate to be taking part in such a high-profile event alongside so many established singers.

    The festival was founded in 2007 to help rai music take hold in the region and open it up to the influence of other musical genres. "We're trying to reflect the plural heritage of Morocco by opening up the musical culture of the Oriental Region," organisers explained.

    The Oujda rai celebration has proved to be a financial boon to the region.

    "The festival puts the spotlight on our city's development and boosts tourism and local investment," noted local teacher Nadia Hajri.

    High-calibre performers lit up the evenings during the festival. The elegant Latifa Raafat, a first-time participant to the festival, got the event under way with her well-known songs. The audience sang along in unison.

    "The event has attracted more than 700,000 people. That's a dream for any artist," Raafat said with joy. To the delight of spectators, Raafat sang a duet with Lamine that blended modern Moroccan music with rai.

    Ahmed, a young IT worker from Nador, said the event could not be missed, as it was an opportunity to come face-to-face with rai musicians.

    "Rai is best enjoyed live," he said, dancing along to Lamine's music.
  • Festivals in Tunisia

    Lug 15 2009, 12:54

    Matmata Festival - Matmata (March)

    Festival Oriljazz (abril)

    Festival "Tozeur, the Oriental, the African" (April)

    International spring festival - Sbeitla (April)

    Arab poetry festival - Tozeur - (April)

    Carthage Jazz festival - Gammarth (April)

    Tozeur’s International Oasis Festival - Tozeur (December)

    Techno House festival - Gammarth (December)

    Dar Sebastian celebrates opera festival - lyrical festival -(December)

    Caravana Latina” Festival - Tozeur (December)

    Traditional Saharan festival - Douz (December)
  • Tabarka Jazz Festival to draw international stars

    Giu 20 2009, 7:21

    The Tunisian coastal resort of Tabarka will host international reggae, ethno jazz, electro, latino, rock and funk musicians for a series of open-air concerts from July 10th-19th, local press reported on Thursday (June 18th). Tabarka Jazz Festival performers will include Alpha Blondie, Al Di Meola, Boi Akih and Billy Cobham.
  • Jazz Chellah festival encourages musical dialogue

    Giu 17 2009, 4:09

    For five days, the Jazz au Chellah festival drew lovers of the free-form musical style to the Moroccan capital. Event organisers hope the event serves as a vehicle for dialogue between cultures.

    The Jazz au Chellah festival closed in a blaze of glory on Monday (June 15th), with leading Scandinavian group JazzKamikaze and Finnish trio PLOP thrilling the audience in the capital city.

    Over five days, hundreds of music-lovers came to enjoy the evening concerts as part of the event, which has become one of Rabat's premier annual attractions. It draws fans both young and old from towns across Morocco. The 1,000-seat Chellah stadium could not hold all the fans of this musical style, which has captivated urban Moroccans for decades.

    Rabat is not the only place where this style of music is celebrated – Tangier and Casablanca will also welcome jazz musicians of various kinds later this year.

    The festival is the longest-established and has built itself a world reputation over the years. Organised by the European Commission Delegation to Morocco, in partnership with the culture ministry, the event celebrated its fourteenth year in 2009. From June 11th-15th, the event brought together some 40 artists from 14 European countries, who met up with Moroccan musicians of all kinds.

    Based on the principle of interaction between European and Moroccan cultures, "Jazz au Chellah" capitalises on the freedom of jazz to lay the foundations for a culture of dialogue, the organisers said.

    The festival's artistic director and musician Majid Bekkas Bekkas said that the watchword this year was cross-pollination between artists, to help sweep away prejudice. "It’s better for us to forget our received ideas and take a generous dose of Chellah Jazz to go far beyond conventions and fashions, and instead to discover a new way of sharing music," he said.

    Bruno Dethomas, head of the EC delegation in Morocco, said it is possible through musical dialogue to achieve greater closeness between peoples and to counter prejudice.

    Each evening's concert drew a large audience. The opening event was headlined by legendary Spanish-Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, known for his synthesis of jazz and the musical outpourings of the Afro-Cuban diaspora.

    A strong presence by Amazigh cultural figures was the biggest innovation this year, with artists such as percussionist Khalid El Berkaoui and Driss El Maaloumi.

    The number of young people drawn to the performances was notable.

    "Over the past four years I've become used to this annual event," said 17-year-old Nassim, who attended with his mother and three of his friends. "It's a real opportunity for young people, especially as the tickets are so affordable for students. It's a good thing the festival comes after the baccalaureate examinations."
  • Tunisia to host salsa dance event

    Giu 17 2009, 4:03

    Some 500 international salsa artists will participate in Tunisia's first International Salsa Congress, set to run June 18th-20th in Hammamet, Tunisia Online reported on Thursday (June 11th). The event will promote artistic and cultural exchanges between salsa music and dance fans. Dance classes will be among 32 different workshops open to the public.

  • World Sacred Music Festival opens in Fez

    Mag 31 2009, 3:41

    The 15th edition of the World Sacred Music Festival opens on Friday (May 29th) in Morocco's spiritual capital of Fez, MAP reported. Music and dance performances include Moroccan Sufi chants, Pakistani qawwali, American gospel and soul, Egyptian madhi, Christian saeta, Iranian percussion, Indian gwalior chants and Turkish dervishes. The festival, which will run through June 6th, also offers conferences, art exhibits and a city-wide fair.
  • Successful Carthage Festival comes to a close

    Mag 15 2009, 23:48

    The 44th Carthage International Festival came to an end on Sunday. Reactions from organisers and fans have been positive, with large audiences turning out for a wide variety of Tunisian, Arab and Western music.

    The 44th annual Carthage International Festival ended Sunday (August 17th), bringing to a close what organisers are calling the most successful event in years in terms of attendance.

    "I think that the Tunisian performances were what attracted the audience," said 45-year-old Najib Belaid. "This may be because of the scheduling, and the festival manager was able to find out the secret of a successful recipe in Carthage."

    This year's festivities opened with a Tunisian performance entitled "Gathering and Gaiety" in which director Bechir Idrissi addressed different aspects of Tunisian culture and tradition, as well as youth-related issues.

    A number of Arab singing stars took part in this year's Carthage Festival, such as Majida El Roumi and Najwa Karam from Lebanon; Hani Shaker and Angham from Egypt; Latifa Arfaoui, Saber Rebai and Amina Fakhet from Tunisia and Kazem al-Saher from Iraq.

    The closing performance, also Tunisian, was entitled Ya Leil Ya Qamar (O night, O moon!) by Tunisian musician Mohammed Garfi, who presented lyrics and mouwashahat (terza rima) which sang of love and homeland.

    Mohammed Garfi also presented a number of Arab poems set to original music, most notably "Watani jabinak" by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, sung by singer Slah Mesbah.

    The performance also featured classical music pieces from Mozart's operas "The Marriage of Figaro" and "The Magic Flute".

    About this blending of western and oriental music, music student Haitem Hdiri told Magharebia: "This is a courageous initiative because it is difficult to blend between the two styles. He also used musical pieces from operas as part of the Carthage Theatre. However, Garfi's music derives from oriental heritage and western opera art."

    Audience members were divided in their assessment of the closing performance. There were some who considered it inferiour to what Garfi has been presenting in terms of music, while others saw in it a good, innovative initiative.

    "I was actually surprised with this performance. It looked as if Garfi was giving a lesson to his students at the university. I didn't see Garfi as I know him in presenting Arab musical decorations. In fact, this performance was not suitable as a conclusion for Carthage," Anisa Youssef said.

    Another attendee, 15-year-old Olfa, disagreed. "I came here especially to enjoy what master Garfi presented. He has us accustomed to quality work, and he didn't disappoint us in this performance," she said.

    Wahid Kouki feels Garfi was correct in selecting the voices, such as Slah Mesbah and Noureddine Beji. "He is a refined artist," Kouki said, "and I'm thirsty for such performances."

    Noureddine Beji, a Tunisian musician, said, "Garfi is a great master and his thoughts are good. His music is wonderful, and he loves difficult things."

    Amani, 25 years old, said, "Carthage is one of the biggest Arab festivals. This edition featured many surprises and good performances. The opening was like a show that displayed Tunisian culture and heritage in all of its aspects. The closing performance was also Tunisian and many beautiful voices took part in it. We also can't forget that the Arab performances also attracted huge audiences, such as Kadhem Saher's performance."

    The next major event to be held at the Roman theatre in Carthage is an Arab and foreign cinema series from August 24th to 31st.
  • European cultural festival in Algeria celebrates 10th anniversary

    Mag 10 2009, 21:35

    The 10th anniversary edition of the European Cultural Festival in Algiers will feature more than 100 artists from over 16 countries, Liberte reported on Thursday (May 7th). The festival, set to run from May 10th-31st, will close with an all-Algerian night featuring gnawa music group Diwan.
  • Sufi festival in Fez promotes religious tolerance with music, dance

    Apr 24 2009, 22:36

    The third annual Fez Festival of Sufi Culture, running through Saturday (April 25th), brings together artists and researchers from across the Maghreb and beyond. The organisers, encouraged by successful events in the past two years, say the week-long event provides a platform for expression by artists committed to the spiritual pursuit of artistic and intellectual creativity.

    Artists pay homage to Sufism through poetry, music, and dance. Participants also demonstrate new art forms and cultural projects that foster intercultural dialogue and enhance human lives.

    The primary objective of the event is to spread a positive image of Islam internationally, using the universal language of openness and peace advocated by Sufism. Organisers hope that the festival confirms Morocco's place in building a bridge between the East and the West.

    "Every day gives us a chance to explore a particular country, its spiritual practices, the masters who have lived there, the words which have nurtured it and the arts and culture which express the very essence of its being," said event director Faouzi Skelli, "So we shall go on a journey through Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Turkey, the countries of Africa and Spain."

    As the years go by, the festival attracts more and more visitors, both national and international, keen to experience and learn more about Sufi culture first-hand.

    In one unique feature, public forums allow young people to discover a new world vision based on values of tolerance and community.
    Discussion revolve around the interactions between spiritual values and society or, more broadly, spiritual values and globalisation.

    Audiences also enjoy performances of Sufi chant at the religious soirées. Hamida Nidal, a teacher, said that music lovers are drawn into a universe of spirituality and calm, where peace and serenity reign. "Our world needs such a culture to reject all the obscurantist ideas and to teach our young people about the benefits of tolerance and openness towards other people's cultures. We need a rebirth of this culture which once flourished in Morocco," she said.

    Kaddour Kamini, a teacher of Islamic education, says that this kind of event enables Morocco to establish itself internationally as a place for dialogue between cultures and home to a rich Islam which is open to other religions. Spirituality has the resources needed to change things in a world which is becoming more and more dehumanised, he added.
  • Fez Festival of Sufi Culture - Day Two

    Apr 20 2009, 14:47

    Sadly, the biggest news today was the rain. The morning came with showers and winds of over twenty kilometres an hour. Not exactly suitable weather for outdoor activities. The afternoon looked set to improve and by 4 pm when the next concert was scheduled to take place, the weather was glorious. Unfortunately, a decision had been made to move the concert from the Batha museum to the Prefecture hall.

    Coordination of the move was a little haphazard and several patrons complained they had been told that the concert would start half an hour late - this was not to be. The new time was given as 6pm, but organisational snags meant it was well after that before the doors eventually opened.

    There was also a slight problem with scheduling and many patrons arrived expecting the advertised concert of Abir Nasraoui & Curro Piñana (Tunisia/Spain), . For those who don't have a copy of the new programme, the Nasraoui and Khaled Ben Yahia and Curro Pinana concert will be on at 4pm on Saturday 25th.

    However, the delay was a pleasant chance to catch up with people and the large crowd was in good spirits. The View from Fez was people-watching and managed to spot several celebrity photographers, a renowned international pianist and a British publicity maven.

    Regular readers will remember that The View From Fez was supporting the sponsored trek to the summit of Jebel Toubkal by Lynn Evans Davidson (pictured above) to raise funds for the Fez Dhar el Mehraz (click for story) - well, Lynn, a superb photographer, is back in Fez covering the Sufi Festival.

    When it finally started at 7pm, the natives were restless - even more so when we stampeded into the prefecture hall to be confronted with VIPs occupying the first few rows. Seating is not raked, so getting a good view of the musicians was difficult.

    The first two numbers were nothing special, but then they cranked up the action with some Maghreb/European fusion and creative instrumentation ... a tin drum that sounded like a gamelan, violin solos and this extraordinary voice soaring over the top, alternating between Arabic intonation and pure operatic soprano. There were beautiful melodies that morphed into hard-line sufi rhythmics. The finale had everyone on their feet, waving and hollering.