Pathways to Creation

Exploring Sacred Music in Fes, Morocco

by Derek Beres

20 July 2008

Faiz Ali Faiz is joined by
Craig Adams at Bab El Makina for their Qawwali Gospel performance. 

Faith in a Future World

By its very design, the Fes Sacred World Music Festival is constructed as a bridge between past and future, diversity and commonality. It allows musicians and audiences to experience the various ways that humans commune with something “other”, whether that be some form of universal energy, or the sheer ecstasy of being surrounded by other appreciators of global music.

Fes renewed my faith in the possibilities of open conversation. It was also a startling eye-opener to the nuances of my own faith, reminding me once again how important the development of humility is.  While Morocco is politically moderate, this does not mean we should assume it is attempting to mimic any other country. This is not fair to the uniqueness and integrity of a civilization that is 1,200 years old. As Reza Aslan points out in No god but God, “only in America is American democracy possible; it cannot be isolated from American tradition and values.” This is hard for any culture to swallow in regards to other countries in an age of globalization. We have to remember that if the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle don’t fit, you cannot force them together. But you can complete one picture and hang it in a gallery next to others.

cover art

No God But God

Reza Aslan

The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

(Random House)

Walking through the café section of the medina one last time, the low register of the guimbri rang out, as two boys practiced their Gnawa chops on a stop near a carpet shop. They were maybe 15-years-old, and the lute novice was making quick work on the fretless bass. A few other boys gathered around, clapping and singing along. While across a desolate lot people were paying over $50 to see a horrible Tunisian “Sufi” performance that reminded me of watching flamenco dancers at Disney World, this young crew was contacting the sacred. From the looks of it, they were doing a fine job.


We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work. We are a wholly independent, women-owned, small company. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing, challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. PopMatters needs your help to keep publishing. Thank you.

//Mixed media


"No Dollars in Duende": On Making Uncompromising, Spirited Music

// Sound Affects

"On the elusive yet clearly existential sadness that adds layers and textures to music.

READ the article