About This Festival
Fes, with its labyrinthine lanes, medieval medina, snake charmers and sexy, modern riads (small hotels), is worth a visit on its own, but this 20-year-old festival adds an atmosphere of ancient caravanserais where travelers crossed paths on their epic sojourns. In this case, the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music (Fès des Musiques Sacrées) is a crossroads for the creative seekers of the world. You’ll experience the serendipity of a rencontres, a musical blending of various nationalities, faiths and music genres, such that a Balinese gamelan orchestra could be connected with whirling dervishes and a gypsy band. Purists won’t be disappointed, however, as this isn’t all about musical fusion. Deeply embedded in the purpose of this festival is a belief that music can heal the world and break down our self-imposed borders. This festival lives by the spirit of the Beatles lyrics, “The time will come when you see we’re all one.”
The week-long festival is full of choices that will satisfy anyone with an appetite for knowledge, art and spirituality. Every evening, the palace courtyard of the 14th-century Bab Makina is filled with a sold-out crowd who gather to catch headliners who have included the now deceased Ravi Shankar, Malian superstar Salif Keita, and even Björk. But you don’t need a festival pass to have fun. Sufi Nights hosts free daily concerts in the gardens of Dar Tazi, and Bab Boujloud, one of the city’s main squares, is a venue for free evening performances. The cedar-scented gardens of the Musee Batha host parties, concerts and art exhibitions aligned with the year’s theme. There’s a film festival within the music festival, and the Fes Forum tackles important scholarly issues; 2013’s “Giving Soul to Globalization” focused on the Gross National Happiness Index. During a Night in the Medina, various riads and homes open their doors for you to discover both music and architecture.
Follow the Music
Our advice? Don’t over plan. The best experiences will creep up on you, and the nature of this festival attracts a fascinating array of sophisticated attendees, so you’re assured great conversations over some post-concert Moroccan tea.
As a “beacon of peace from the Islamic world,” the Fes festival has been designated by the United Nations as one of the major cultural events of the world, each year contributing to the dialogue between civilizations. The backdrop of the call of the muezzin, the spice-scented souks and the sublime combination of ancient architecture and modern Parisian-influenced design creates a cultural bouillabaisse that feels magical. Mix in a jam session between an African-American gospel choir, Japanese Shinto court musicians, and an Andean trio of flautists, and you’ll feel like you’ve landed in multicultural heaven.