Say Yes to Fès – Festival of World Sacred Music

Chisel calligraphy in the medina

Fez became famous for Islamic scholarship, music and dance
Alongside music from around the world, the Fez festival has spawned a discussion forum, or colloquium, to address burning issues of the day. Now in its sixth year, the colloquium is quietly becoming the festival’s raison d’etre.
The festival’s focus on tolerance and understanding is nothing new to Fez, which has seen times change since its establishment at the end of the 8th Century.


Fez’s fame grew with the reputation of the scholar Ibn Arabi, regarded as one of Islam’s mystical pioneers, and the city became home to all manner of Sufi brotherhoods, groups who channelled their devotion to Allah through, among other things, music and dance. The five-day forum agenda for 2006 is certainly ambitious, spanning economics, Islam and the art of forgiveness.


Comment: This is the uniqueness and inclusiveness of Sufism – a branch of Islam which found Hindu’s religious practice employing classical vocal & instrumental music in India much more entrancing. Sufis were naturally absorbed within the accepting and inclusive Hindu culture. Capitalising on the audio-orgasmic nature of the classical Hindu music – the Sufis developed their unique style of ‘bunndgi’ or ‘bhakti’ or ‘ecstatic devotional songs’ called Qawalis. The Qawals are mystic Sufi singers. They ore often wanderers who are enormously popular and sometimes world-famous, like the Sabri brothers and not forgetting, my favourite, (Late Ustad*) Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (in my view to revere him as an Ustaad = The Master, The Expert – is not quite befitting or doing justice to his inimitable status.

The origins of Qawwali music trace back over seven hundred years+ to the spiritual Samah songs of Persia. Qawwali’s devotional themes of peace and love are held to come from God, sung on earth by the Prophets who followed Mohammad.

Pakistan’s Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan the most revered Qawwal came to prominence to western audiences through his collaborations with Eddie Vedder and Tim Robbins (Dead Man Walking soundtrack), Michael Brook, Massive Attack, and Peter Gabriel (Last Temptation of Christ soundtrack) which would result in a number of tours and albums released in North America and Europe.

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Filed under Equality & Diversity within Community Cohesion

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