An ongoing problem at the Fez Festival.

Bab Makina

Since we posted the story on frequently asked questions about the Fez World Sacred Music Festival we have received a number of emails and comments about the bad behaviour of the Moroccan audiences at the Bab Makina. As one comment pointed out "The fact that Moroccans talk loudly, continuously use flash and call each other on their mobiles is disrespectful to both Moroccans and non Moroccans who have saved up their hard-earned $s, £s and €s to come to a SACRED music festival -- and to the artists who try to give heartfelt performances of often very subtle music."

"On one occasion there was a group of Moroccans behind me talking at full volume during exquisite moments of a performance of Sufi music. I politely asked them to be quiet. One man pointed to his skull and said to his companions "Elle est malade". -Audience member
It should be noted that quite often the problem is confined to the Moroccans in the front rows where, as one American celebrity visitor said, "I doubt that some of them even paid for their seats. One wonders why they came if they were not interested in the music." It may be the case that many of those causing offence are employees of one of the major sponsors and are attending with free tickets for social reasons. It probably true that if they had to pay for their seats they might pay a little more attention to the performances.

"I met an Englishman who was in tears because he could not find a place where people were silently appreciating the music. He was not a rich man and told me he had been saving for 3 years to come to the festival. He was totally disillusioned and vowed never to visit Morocco again." - Audience member

Other Americans associated with the festival tell much the same story - of people from the US distraught because of the noise and distractions from the Moroccan audience. It has been suggested that attendance by non-Moroccans is decreasing year on year because of this problem.

Audience at Bab Makina

Suggestions have been made that a separate area should be provided at the Bab Makina for people who want to talk during concerts -- but that mobile phone ring tones should not be tolerated and that this rule should be strictly enforced by the stewards.

Faouzi Skali ( before a performance)

American publicist for the festival, Cindy Byram, and others have tried to get something done about this problem for three years. The problem was written about in annual reports and several people say they have spoken directly about it with Faouzi Skali, then Naima Lahbil and now Fatima Sadiqi. None of these Director Generals appear to have paid any attention to what is a major problem. As one festival patron said "We doubt if anyone ever read our reports - let alone act on their recommendations." Others, including a number of regular visitors from France, say there seems to be a wall of resistance against suggestions made by non-Moroccan members of the festival team.

Another email pointed out an interesting contrast, "What is difficult to understand is why the boorish behaviour of the crowd at Bab Makina is not replicated at other venues. During the festival the concerts at the Batha Museum are met by an appreciative and respectful crowd. It is also true of the entire Sufi Festival where audience behaviour is extremely good. "

The audience at the Sufi festival.

We would be interested in hearing your response to the issue and suggestions as to how the problem can be corrected before this year's festival. Please feel free to post a comment or email us.

Fes Festival of World Sacred Music 2009 - Programme