Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

A Musical Reminder of Diversity | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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(Asharq Al-Awsat)

(Asharq Al-Awsat)

(Asharq Al-Awsat)

Marrakesh, Asharq Al-Awsat—This year’s Atlantic Andalusia Music Festival in Morocco will display an exhibition of works by French artist Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), including his famous painting Jewish Musicians of Mogador. When Delacroix painted this work, Mogador was the name used by Europeans for the present day Moroccan town of Essaouira, where the music festival is currently held.

Delacroix, regarded as a leader of the French Romantic Movement, was greatly influenced by his travels to North Africa. The exhibition clearly demonstrates the renowned French painter’s relationship with Morocco. Although Delacroix never actually visited Essaouira, his travel memoirs reveal that he had a fascination with the port city.

Jewish Musicians of Mogador was inspired by a reception hosted by Sultan Abd Al-Rahman for a French delegation that Delacroix attended in the royal palace in the city of Meknes. The Sultan had arranged for a Jewish-Muslim musical ensemble to perform at the event—he considered them to be the best musicians in the country.

The story demonstrates the quality of Andalusian music in Morocco and the high esteem with which this musical genre has been held for centuries. The tale is also one of peaceful coexistence between Jews and the Muslims, a sentiment that the music festival’s organizers say they are determined not to see consigned to the past. They emphasise that the painting by Delacroix allows the world see the “uniqueness and great diversity of our country.”

“The City of Winds”, as Essaouira is affectionately known, has been hosting the Andalusia Music Festival for ten years. It is considered to be the only festival in the Arab world where Muslim and Jewish poets, musicians and other artists perform together.

As well as this artistic link between the past and present of Andalusian music tradition in the country, this year’s festival— scheduled to run from October 30 to November 2—includes musical performances held in the festival’s Grand Theatre. These will be given by a number of esteemed artists in the Arab-Jewish music tradition, including the Tetouan band, led by Mohamed Amin Al-Akrami as well performances by Haim Look, Benjamin Bouzaglo, Sanaa Marhati and Abir El-Abed to name just a few.

As with every year at the festival, the mornings will be designated to discussions for various ideas highlighted by the event. The main emphasis at the festival’s 11th year will be the many objectives that have already been achieved by the organization to date.

Within its cultural and artistic framework, the festival has so far managed to celebrate a pluralism, tolerance and coexistence of religions and cultures and has done so by successfully building bridges between the distant geographic areas that make up the historic region of Andalusian cultural heritage.