12 January 2010

If You Can't Get to Fez...

DVD REVIEW
Sound of the Soul: The Fez Festival of World Sacred Music (Alive Mind)

For eight days each June for the past 16 years, the city of Fez, Morocco, has teemed with musicians, dancers, and music lovers gathered for a unique celebration of sacred traditions. It's the World Sacred Music Festival, the granddaddy of a number of smaller sacred music festivals that have sprouted up all over the world.

For some years, compilations CDs of music from the festival have been available. Now, filmmaker Stephen Olsson makes it possible for those of us who have yet to make a musical pilgrimage to Fez to get see images, hear sounds, and learn a little of position of Morocco in world and religious culture that makes it the perfect location for this amazing festival.

"We wanted something to enhance the peace in the world, and understanding in the world," says festival president Mohamned Kabbaj. "And the main language is the musical language, because everybody understands this language. The music goes directly to the heart."

While the film includes generous views of performances, the many artist and organizer interviews superimposed over the music will inform some viewers, and leave others frustrated at the interruption of the music. Perhaps to make up for this, the DVD extras include 17 minutes of uncut performances, from Moroccan groups Samaa Sahraoui and Nass El Ghiwane, and Afghanistan's Garida Mahwash & the Kabul Ensemble. There's another 90-second extra answering the question "What Is World Music?" -- I won't spoil the surprise by revealing their answer.

To be honest, I've heard mixed reviews of both Fez and the festival from some who've attended. Some of the venues apparently lack a sacred atmosphere, and the huge influx of visitors during the festival can tax the city's infrastructure. Still, those complaints don't deter my determination to someday attend the festival in person.

This DVD and the 10-song companion CD offer a compelling glimpse into this unique festival, which in 2010 is expected to feature performers as diverse as gospel the Sizero Tabla Experience, The Royal Ballet of Cambodia, poets from Afghanistan, and either Ben Harper or Al Greene. Other performers will gather from the world over from 4-12 June, and while I won't be there this year, this glimpse of the festival has drawn me ever closer.

More:
Buy CD/DVD
More DVD info
Fez Festival 2010 lineup
review of the 2007 Fez Festival

Enhanced by Zemanta
Post a Comment