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French Version

Moroccan music festival seeks harmonious 'soul' of globalization

Event draws wide diaspora of tune-carrying spiritualists

As world musicians turned up in this ancient town for a festival of religious music, political figures and thinkers sat under an oak tree over the weekend debating ways of bringing spiritual harmony to the globalized world.

"Globalization has no meaning unless it has a soul, a universal collective vision that can give it a direction, that can act to transform the world," said Mohammad Kabbaj, president of the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music.

At a meeting in the tree-shaded garden of Fez' 19th-century Batha palace, Kabbaj said that according to the Koran, "harmony is the irrefutable proof of the existence of God and is the necessary link between man and society."

The 12th edition of the festival, which opened on Friday, brings together spiritual and religious music from Syria, Iran, India, Mali, Latin America, Japan, Tibet, Azerbaijan and the Mediterranean under the theme of "harmonies."

The Fez Foundation that organizes the festival says in its mission statement that one if its aims is promote the historical holy city - noted for its Qaraouine university - as a center of intercultural contact.

Fez claims a history of harmony between different cultures. Jews, Christians and Muslims lived side-by-side in the city after its founding in 789.

Since 2000, the festival has included a discussion forum called Fez Encounters, bringing together politicians, academics, religious leaders and social activists. This year's forum aims to discuss matters such as poverty, spirituality and economics, and Islam and globalization.

France's Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, attending Saturday's meeting in the Batha palace, spoke about the responsibilities of the international community in the context of globalization.

"The circulation of information also allows the circulation of barbarism," he said.

"That is why we must be mobilized and alert to see to it that all these sacred musics of the world which are going to sound during this festival should not be a moment of precarious harmony ... The political powers of today's world must take on their full role and not yield to certain currents like fundamentalism, which together we must know how to fight against ... In globalization, respect for identities, cultures and religions is an essential factor of peace."

Some 60 delegates from Morocco, France, Tunisia, the United States and Germany, in addition to Israelis and Palestinians, were expected to take part in the forum discussions.

The French-American conductor William Christie kicked off the festival on Friday evening with a performance by his Arts Florissants orchestra of works by composers including Mozart and Jean-Philippe Rameau.

The festival - which was recognized in 2001 by the United Nations as a major contributor to dialogue between civilizations - runs through June 10, with a grand finale by way of a concert by Malian musician Salif Keita.

Concerts will be held on the grounds of the palace, which now houses a museum, and the courtyard of the city's Bab Makina palace. Free concerts are also due to take place on a public square.

Casablanca,06 06 2006
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The Daily Star
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