Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Last Few Days of Ramadan 2014

While the final days of Ramadan approach there are still some important events in store. Among them are the celebration tonight (the 27th night of Ramadan) of Laylat Al Qadr and Leilat Sabawachrine.

Laylat Al Qadr is considered the holiest night of the year for Muslims, and is traditionally celebrated on the 27th day of Ramadan. It is known as the "Night of Power," and commemorates the night that the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, beginning with the exhortation, "Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists)," in Surat Al-Alaq.

The Prophet Muhammad did not mention exactly when the "Night of Power" would be, although most scholars believe it falls on one of the odd-numbered nights of the final ten days of Ramadan, such as the 19th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, or 27th days of Ramadan. It is most widely believed to fall on the 27th day of Ramadan.

Many Muslims observe this occasion with study, devotional readings, and prayer. Some Muslims participate in a spiritual retreat called itikaf, where they spend all ten days in the mosque reading the Quran and praying.

Photo: Suzanna Clarke

Leilat Sabawachrine - literally the "night of the 27th day of Ramadan" - is a night especially for children - a time when they dress in their finest clothes. For girls this also means having their hands and feet covered in beautiful henna designs and wearing makeup and jewellery. Once dressed, they take to the streets where many of them were happy to receive gifts of sweets or money.

Thank the D'kak!

And late at night try and find the D'kak and offer him a little money for the work he has been doing making sure that people don't miss Suhoor, the final meal before the Fajr (dawn) prayer and the beginning of another day fasting. The whole purpose of Suhoor is to provide people fasting with enough nourishment and energy to keep them going for the next sixteen hours. During those hours an overwhelming majority of Moroccans will abstain from food, drink, cigarettes and sex.

Yassine Boudouàià - one of the D'kaks in the Fez Medina . Photo Sandy McCutcheon

To make certain you don't miss this meal is the job of the Bou Damdoum in Amazigh or D’kak in Moroccan Arabic, (the drummer), who uses his drums or N’ffar (a long horn that makes buzzing sound) to guarantee that everyone in the neighbourhood wakes up in time to cook and then enjoy their Suhoor meal.

This is a very old tradition and has been observed in a number of countries. An early report of the work done by a D'kak in Algiers is in the remarkable work by the cleric Antonio de Sosa. In his Topography of Algiers (1612) - Edited with an introduction by María Antonia Garcés. Translated by Diana de Armas Wilson - Sosa has a brief description of the D'kak during Ramadan... "When midnight approaches, some Muslims, out of devotion, walk the streets sounding certain drums, whose sound awakens sleepers so that they can return to their food..." This is the same custom that still exists in the Fez Medina.

Finally - at iftar, last night, people were not the only ones looking forward to breaking the fast!

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ramadan Music ~ Fez Hamadcha Give Free Concert ~ Photo Essay

As part of the cultural offerings during the long Ramadan nights in Fez the Hamadcha Sufi Brotherhood have been performing for the public in the Ville Nouvelle. The View from Fez was invited to the latest performance...
Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi with some of the younger members of the Brotherhood
Literally drumming up a crowd on the street

As is often the case in Fez, the concert appeared to be impromptu with little or no publicity. However, as is also the case, a few minutes of performing in the street was all it took to gather a crowd who were then invited inside the cultural centre

Follow the flag bearers - gathering a crowd
Flag women Rachida El Jokh (left) and Maha McCutcheon (right) 
Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi  playing gimbri
Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi  and the Cultural Centre Directors

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

SUNDAY FEATURE ~ Middle Eastern Singers Drawn to Moroccan Dialect.

The View from Fez is in debt to Morocco World News and the author, Moulay Abdellah Taibi, for this interesting article on the reasons that Darija is becoming the language of choice amongst some of the top non-Moroccan performers

Many Middle Eastern singers are increasingly attracted to the Moroccan dialect, “darija,” as a new singing style, and they are snapping up opportunities to be admired by the Moroccan public. I describe this as a weird phenomenon because darija has always been seen by Middle Easterners as an odd dialect. Whenever you communicate in darija with a Middle Easterner, he or she would not miss the chance to comment, “your dialect is so difficult!”

This new trend towards Moroccan darija might be seen as reconciliation with this “weird” dialect, but it would be too simplistic and naïve to think so. Singing in darija is merely a strategy used by these artists and their producers to make a living off the Moroccan public—no emotions are involved. The uprisings and chaotic circumstances in the Arab countries put the music industry at stake, leaving singers in a precarious situation. So, singing in darija can help ride out the storm. For this reason, Morocco, which has not been affected by the same hardships resulting from the Arab uprisings, is regarded as the sole calm harbor to land where a new style in the music business can flourish.

Diana Haddad

The Moroccan market is the most suitable market during this period of time and, of course, singers are smacking their lips at having a chance to perform at Moroccan festivals such as Mawazin, which is ranked among the most successful festival in the world. Music producers think that singing in darija will certainly affect the Moroccan public, so they penetrate their pockets through their hearts. Popular singers such as Asala Nasri, Assi Hellani, Diana Haddad, and many others will surely increase their fan base in Morocco when they sing in darija. The public will feel proud to listen to these giant singers recognize our “pathetic and outcast” dialect, and they will think that these singers are doing us a huge favor by promoting it.

All dialects of Arabic have almost the same level of complexity, and saying that one is easier or more difficult than another is just a fable. They are all derived from the classical standard Arabic and affected by different factors before reaching their current states. The difference between these dialects from the Gulf to the Atlantic is nothing but word choice. For example, a Moroccan would say: Ana bghit nmchi l ddar while an Egyptian would prefer the form: Ana 3ayez ArouH Elbit. From the above example, we can see that 3ayez and bghit / Nmchi and ArouH/ ddar and Elbit are mere synonyms in classical Arabic. With the addition of different rhythms, sounds, and intonations, dialects become slightly different from one another, but stubborn minds and selfish speakers make the gap sound much more important than it really is.

Asala Nasri

It is great to learn and speak other languages and dialects, but, unfortunately, this often implies certain needs and weaknesses. An Amazigh who learns Arabic shows that his/her language is weak and that he/she needs Arabic; the same goes for an Arab who learns French or English. The same happens each time we converge to another speaker’s language or dialect. Sociolinguists explain that the person with higher needs or whose language, culture, or even economy is weaker is the one who converges more, whereas the one with lower needs or, whose language is powerful, tends to diverge.

Assimilating to another speaker’s tongue may be our fate in Morocco. To some extent, people would not consider that an issue; on the contrary, people consider code-switching to fit one’s interlocutor’s use of language as a positive behavior. But it is certainly an issue if the notion of power and weakness is hovering within a conversation. Whenever you meet a European, he/she would not make an effort to speak in your language because he/she knows that you are going to adapt to his/her language. This case can be tolerated to some extent if you are in their country and you need that language for interaction. However, the same goes for Arabs as well. I feel annoyed whenever I see a Moroccan stumbles to speak another Arabic dialect in an ugly accent while his/her interlocutor is speaking at ease and proud to be the dominant.

Nowadays, for any dialect or language to be dominant, there are many factors. Among these, we have the media. The country with the most influential media has more chances to spread its language or dialect. For example, American English has more advantages today over its British counterpart thanks to Hollywood. Similarly, the Egyptian dialect of Arabic is boosted by their media in the Arab world.

Spreading languages and cultures may also be attributed to political factors. For example, when France and other former colonial powers retreated from their colonies, they obliged them to use their languages. Nowadays, the battle of imposing languages and dialects on others is still ongoing. In Morocco, for instance, the British Council and the American Embassy spare no effort in making their dialects the most used among English teachers and learners.

Within the Arab world, there is a movement led by Egyptians to crown their dialect as the spoken version of classical Arabic. I personally witnessed this when I was in the Fulbright program in 2012/2013, when all the Arab Fulbrighters were assembled in Istanbul for an orientation and enrichment program. We were given a textbook to teach Arabic to American university students. I was surprised to find that the book was in the Egyptian and Shami dialects of Arabic.

When I arrived in the University where I was to teach Arabic language and culture, I found that the same textbook was required by the syllabus, and that students had already bought it. I did not use that book because I come from Morocco, and I was to represent my country and culture. Besides, I cannot properly speak either the Shami or Egyptian dialects of Arabic.

I have nothing against speaking other tongues, no matter what they are, but I am strongly against feeling obliged to do it.

Moulay Abdellah Taibi is a Fulbright FLTA, at the college of Saint Rose Albany, New York where. He obtained a B.A in English Literature and BS in Tourism, Management and communication. He is a social activist and president of the Moroccan association “Art, Youth without borders”.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Chellah Jazz Festival in Rabat this September

European Jazz and Moroccan music will meet again in September at the 19th edition of the Chellah Jazz Festival, which has now become a landmark event of the cultural scene in Morocco. The festival, to take place from 17 to 21 September, was initiated by the European Union in Morocco and is dedicated to the discovery of European jazz and the encounter between European and Moroccan jazz musicians

Ten European and five Moroccan bands will play together at the Festival. Alongside Moroccan musicians, jazz musicians from the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the UK, Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Romania, Portugal, Spain, Finland and Poland will bring their styles and colours to the Festival.

"The European Union in Morocco imagined the Chellah Jazz festival to be the reflection of a cultural partnership between Europe and Morocco, offering musicians from different horizons a single expression platform,” said Rupert Joy, EU Ambassador in Morocco. “Brilliant Moroccan and European artists will share with us again moments of fruitful musical encounters.”

Chellah 2013

Historically, the richness of Moroccan music has always been the target of great jazz figures, to name pianist Randy Weston, probably the first musician to mix jazz with Moroccan music (Tanjah, Polydor Label 1973); percussionist Jauk El Maleh whose various academic experiments are still on the forefront; guitarist Pat Metheny considered as a special guest at Essaouira Gnawa Festival; and many others such as Omar Sosa, Wayne Shorter and recently Archie Shepp who found on the variety of Moroccan instruments and sounds interesting material to produce original jazz. Based on this idea, the festival seeks to sustain the close affiliation between jazz and Moroccan music.

Last year, over 7,000 people enjoyed listening to the music of European guest artists mixed with that of Oum, Bnet Houariyat, Driss El Maaloumi Rashid Karim Kadiri and Zeroual. This musical genre labelled ‘made ​​in Chellah’ is offered every year in a CD.

The festival website is here:  Chellah Jazz  (at the moment no programme is available)

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