When I told people I was traveling to Fes for north Africa’s most celebrated music festival, I heard, “Will you feel safe there?” or “You’re traveling halfway around the world to listen to church music?”
Ironically, at the primary concerts, attendees were required to walk through a metal detector machine. Just one more reminder that being sacred also requires being secure.
My Relais & Chateaux hotel, Riad Fes, was a brisk, 10-minute walk to Bab Al Makina, the main venue, and I arrived just as Morocco’s Presidential motorcade was about to pull up - I was a little underdressed.
As the King of Morocco said in dedicating the festival, “The Kingdom of Morocco boasts a richly diverse, multi-faceted history, successfully forged together by its people, who have managed over the centuries, to build a deeply-rooted nation based on a commitment to lofty values and a long-standing tradition of respect for the Other….”
What’s sacred about this festival isn’t the music, it’s the collaboration. It’s the fusion of Himalayan musicians with those from the Mauritanian desert, Bengali ragas joining in Gospel singing with those from South Africa, and an Eastern Orthodox Aramaen choir synthesizing with those from the Alfama distract of Lisbon. My only regret was not staying long enough to see Patti Smith later in the week. The title for the Opening Night celebration was “Love is my Religion.” I can’t think of a more exquisite way to describe the purpose of the World Sacred Music festival.