B’ismillah, Fes Festival of World Sacred Music (Sounds True STA339, 1997)
Hamdulillah, Fes Festival, 1997-1998 (Sounds True)
Under the Moroccan Sky (Sounds True STA MM00122D, 2001)
The 3 compilations reviewed here chronicle the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music which takes place in Fes, Morocco once a year and features sacred music from all religions. The first festival took place in 1994 and 12 years later, the festival is still going strong bringing together musicians and audiences from various spiritual traditions. The 3 CDs here as far as I can tell, range from 1996 to 2001 although the actual date of the festival recorded is only listed on Hamdulillah, so I am unclear about the festival dates of the other 2
recordings. All the other information you need is presented in the CDs’ liner notes.
What I can say, is that these CDs are heavy on North African and Middle Eastern content. Sufi and Sufi-related traditions figure prominently, although you will find Jewish sacred chants, some Christian liturgical chants, Indian classical, flamenco and the 2-CD set, B’ismillah features an orchestra and choir from Bosnia. The CDs feature lots of Arab percussion, ouds, guitars, mesmerizing vocals, both male and female, choral arrangements, and all of this builds sacred bridges between cultures. All the music is high quality, soulful and hopeful.
You will also find some of the brightest musical talent from Spain, India, the Middle East, North Africa and other parts of Europe. What you won’t find is American gospel, South African gospel, Native American sacred music or pagan spiritual music in general. Sadly, when many people speak of sacred traditions it only includes, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Moslem and Judaism. These CDs reflect that reality. It could be that people in North Africa and parts of Europe are unfamiliar with the pagan sacred music or even American gospel.
I have been enjoying these CDs immensely, however, I would have loved to have heard music from a festival that also includes spiritual music from indigenous and tribal people along with music of the major religions. Imagine Yoruba chants, Native American healing songs, Australian aboriginal chants and other exotic traditions performed next to Sufi music or Christian liturgical chants.
My hope is that the Fes Festival has already done this or will in the future. In any case, Fes Festival plays an important role on our universal path to world peace. If the major religions can build bridges between themselves through music or other common ground, then that in itself will cause people to be more tolerant towards others leading to less conflicts around the world. There is
after all, no right way and there isn’t just one way to worship the Divine. I think these CDs prove that point and that this type of music festival deserves our support whether it takes place in Fes, Morocco, Seattle, Washington, or San Francisco, please support it.
In the meantime, these 3 long playing recordings give us an earful of peaceful music that could be used for meditation, relaxation or dancing. Listeners can delve into music of India, Pakistan, Egypt, Spain, Morocco, etc. and all within the confines of 1 or 2 CDs.
Some highlights for me are the Dastan Ensemble (Iran) on Hamdulillah, the many women performers on all the recordings, flamenco and all of fabulous rhythms throughout. I recommend the only single CD, Under the Moroccan Sky for those folks short on time. And if you just happen to be in Morocco around the time of Fes Festival, attend the festival and soak in these sacred gems first hand.
Other sacred music CDs available:
- World Festival Sacred Music
- Fez Festival of World Sacred Music
- World Festival of Sacred Music-Los Angeles 2002
Patricia Herlevi is a former music journalist turned music researcher. She is especially interested in raising music consciousness. She is looking for an agent and publisher for her book Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit). She founded and hosts the blog
The Whole Music Experience and has contributed to World Music Central since 2003.