“Spirit of Fès” Tour Brings World’s Famed Sacred Music Festival to U.S.

The Spirit of Fès tour has its roots in Morocco’s world-acclaimed annual Fès Festival of World Sacred Music and its companion event, the Fès Forum. Held each summer in Morocco’s former imperial city of Fez (spelled as Fès in French), these twin events bring together artists, audiences, intellectuals, political figures, social activists, and spiritual leaders from across the globe. Founded twelve years ago in the wake of the first Gulf War (another time of great international tension), the Fez Festival’s mission is to create a venue for dynamic and respectful intercultural and inter-religious dialogue between the world’s diverse cultures.

Over the years, this singular event has attracted some of the world’s most celebrated performers and cultural ambassadors, including Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar, Senegalese vocalist Youssou N’Dour, Brazilian singer and guitarist (and Brazil’s current Minister of Culture) Gilberto Gil, and South African vocalist Miriam Makeba, among many others, as well as a host of soloists and ensembles from Fez itself and from around Morocco.

The festival and forum have earned praise from organizations and individuals across the globe. In 2001, the United Nations honored the Fez Festival as one of just seven “Unsung Heroes of Dialogue,” citing the festival as reaching “across the divide to the Other.” In 2006, the Geneva-based Ousseimi Foundation awarded the festival the Ousseimi Prize For Tolerance (the 2005 winner was Nelson Mandela).

The unique and ancient environment of Fez lends itself perfectly to the festival’s goals; it is a city which for centuries has been one of the great centers of spiritual, political and intellectual life within the Muslim world, and which has been home to generations of Islamic, Jewish, and Christian communities living side by side. This setting makes a perfect home for new cross-cultural encounters which honor and bridge our common humanity.

The idea behind the Spirit of Fès tour is to bring the Fez Festival’s character and ethos to new audiences across the US. Quite appropriately given current events, the tour begins its humane counterpoint of intercultural and multi-faith dialogue on Oct. 7 in Washington DC, the nation’s political heart, at the Smithsonian Institution. The free concert on the Freer Sackler Gallery’s steps to the Mall will reach a large cross-section of the community. The Spirit of Fès also stops at New York’s Carnegie Hall and UCLA’s Royce Hall, as well as at world-class concert halls across the Northeast, the Midwest, and California.

The lineup of master musicians participating in the Spirit of Fès represents some of the world’s most sophisticated artistic traditions. Vocalist Susan Hellauer, a New York native, is one of the founding members of the extraordinarily popular early music ensemble Anonymous 4, whose recordings have sold well over than one million copies worldwide. The group’s newest recording, Gloryland (Harmonia Mundi), a critically lauded album of American traditional music, was just released. Hellauer also teaches at Queens College of the City University of New York.

South Indian classical singer Aruna Sairam was born in Mumbai (Bombay), India, to a musical family; her mother was a noted vocalist herself, and her father a connoisseur who hosted some of their country’s greatest musicians and dancers. With her rich and flexible voice, Sairam is one of the most celebrated practitioners of the intricate Carnatic (South Indian classical) style, which is rooted in the devotional traditions of South India’s Hindu temples.

The Daqqa Roudania of Taroudant hails from southern Morocco. They are a group of craftsmen and tanners who are also initiates in a Sufi (mystical Muslim) community, or tariqa. Their rituals bring together a swirl of music, chant, dance, and percussion in order to attain an ecstatic state of oneness with God. The Daqqa’s ceremonies—which are at once religious ritual, concert, and social occasion—utilize such instruments as bendir (frame) and tarija (clay) tambourines, the unique Moroccan metal castanets called qarqaba, and the wind instrument called a neffar.

Born in Casablanca to a Jewish family, Gerard Edery is regarded as one of today’s leading interpreters of Sephardic vocal music. Trained as a Western classical baritone, he has performed more than thirty roles with opera companies around the United States. With his group the Sons of Sepharad, Edery also works with such famed Jewish cantors as Alberto Mizrahi and Aaron Bensoussan, and is a frequent guest cantor at synagogues and Jewish community centers throughout North America.

Lebanese-American percussionist Jamey Haddad is one of the most notable world music and jazz percussionists in the United States. An associate professor at Boston’s Berklee School of Music, Haddad has collaborated with some of the country’s most famed musicians, including Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Carly Simon, Joe Lovano, the Paul Winter Consort, and Betty Buckley.

Zafer Tawil is a Palestinian-American multi-instrumentalist based in New York City. Playing the violin, ‘ud (lute), percussion, and qanun (hammered dulcimer), he has performed with some of the Arab world’s most celebrated artists, including violinist and ‘ud master Simon Shaheen and rai singer Cheb Mami, as well as with Western superstars like Sting.

The Spirit of Fès – “Paths to Hope” – 2006 U.S. Tour Dates:

Oct. 7: Washington, DC Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Sackler Gallery / Meyer Aud.
Oct. 10: Philadelphia, PA Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts / Perelman Theater
Oct. 11: Storrs, CT Univ of Connecticut / Jorgensen Auditorium
Oct. 12: Schenectady, NY Art Center and Theater of Schenectady / Proctor’s Theatre
Oct. 13: Purchase, NY Purchase College, SUNY / Concert Hall
Oct. 14: New York, NY Carnegie Hall / Zankel Hall (prod. w/ World Music Institute)
Oct. 17: Buffalo, NY University at Buffalo / Center for the Arts
Oct. 19: West Lafayette, IN Purdue University / Loeb Playhouse
Oct. 20 & 21: Urbana, IL Univ of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign /Tryon Theatre
Oct. 24: Irvine, CA Irvine Barclay Theatre
Oct. 25: Riverside, CA Univ of California at Riverside / University Theater
Oct. 26: Los Angeles, CA UCLA Center for the Performing Arts / Royce Hall
Oct. 27: Santa Cruz, CA Univ of California at Santa Cruz / Music Center Recital Hall
Oct. 28: Chico, CA California State University, Chico / Laxson Auditorium
Oct. 29: San Francisco, CA Jewish Community Center of San Francisco / Kanbar Hall

The festival is being organized by the U.S.-based non-profit The Spirit of Fes with leading firm Columbia Artists Management, Inc. (CAMI),

Photo of Sufi group Daqqa Roudania of Taroudant

Author: World Music Central News Department

World music news from the editors at World Music Central