Holland Festival Proms:
Jalasat Rouhiya

Ensemble Rhoum El Bakkali,
Amsterdams Andalusisch Orkest, Orchestre Temsamani

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It is a rare sight: in Jalasat Rouhiya (‘Spiritual Session’) the women of the hadra choir of Chefchaouen will be on stage together with the men and women of Amsterdam Andalusian Orchestra and Orchestre Temsamani from Tétouan. They will sing and play new music together that is based on the traditionally exclusively female hadratradition and the Arabo-Andalusian repertoire. One of the compositions is specially written for this combination by maestro Mohamed Amin El Akrami. It is a concert for young and old: the mystical, spiritual sound of a hadra session infused with the rousing sounds and rhythms of an Arabo-Andalusian orchestra.

Credits

music
Mohamed Amin El Akrami
musical direction
Mohamed Amin El Akrami
music performed by
Ensemble Rhoum El Bakkali, Amsterdams Andalusisch Orkest, Orchestre Temsamani

biographies

The Ensemble Rhoum El Bakkali, led by singer and oud player Sayda Rahoum Bakkali, is dedicated to carrying on and preserving the hadratradition, which originated in the region surrounding the

Northern Moroccan city of Chefchaouen in the sixteenth century. The hadra is a Sufi ritual that makes use of invocations, hymns and prayers set to music, and is often performed by brotherhoods. The Rhoum El Bakkali Sufi brotherhood traces back to Sidi Ali Hadj Bekkali, the founder of the Bekkalia Sufi order, whose descendants have maintained the tradition’s legacy to this day. Starting from the end of the nineteenth century, women from the Chefchaouen region also began performing the hadra at the initiative of Cherifa Lalla Hiba Bekkalia. 

Sayda Rahoum Bakkali has devoted herself to carrying on this tradition. She is the daughter of a tribal elder and has studied Arabic-Andalusian music and theory to better understand the aesthetics of the hadra. This background helps her in passing on her legacy to a group of young women from the Chefchaouen region. These women meet three times a week to study repertoire consisting of religious songs accompanied by hand drums. The gatherings are a combination of prayer meetings and rehearsals for performances of these works and the folk melodies that are also part of the Rahoum family heritage. The ensemble performs during festivals in Morocco and farther afield, including performances at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, or the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, and at festivals dedicated to Sufi music in Konya and Jakarta. 

The Amsterdams Andalusisch Orkest (Amsterdam Andalusian Orchestra), founded in 2011 by Yassine Boussaid and others, celebrates the musical heritage of Al-Andalus, an area of modern-day Spain that formed a melting pot of European and Arab culture between the eighth and fifteenth centuries. It was a province of a Caliphate that stretched from Pakistan to North Africa, including nearly the whole of the Iberian Peninsula. One surviving element of that period is Arab-Andalusian music, which sounds Arab one the one hand, but also sounds like flamenco and the music of southern Spain to Western European ears: this is because flamenco was influenced by this style. A great source of inspiration for the orchestra is the ensemble of the legendary Abdesadaq Chekara (1933-1998) from Tétouan in Morocco. 

The Amsterdams Andalusisch Orkest wants to share its love for this music with the Dutch public. Apart from the classical music of Al-Andalus and Sufi music it also plays chaabi, a lighter style of folk music. The musical core is made up of the violinist Abderrahim Semlali and multi-instrumentalist Ahmed El Maai. The Amsterdams Andalusisch Orkest recently brought out its debut album, Andalusian Echoes, and in 2016 it was the driving force behind a nation-wide festival revolving around the oud, the Arabic lute. The orchestra is also making a name for itself in Morocco, where it has performed with renowned orchestras from Tangiers and Tétouan. Two years ago it appeared at the Holland Festival with the programme Safar Nord-Sud

Orchestre Temsamani is bases in Tétouan, in the northernmost part of Morocco. As an artistic and cultural centre this city plays an important role in Al-Ala, one of the classical styles within Arab-Andalusian music. The group was named after Mohamed Larbi Temsamani (1920-2001), who was the director of the Tétouan conservatoire for many years after founding it in 1956. He is known as one of the most important innovators of the Al-Ala style, and made waves by changing the composition of the traditional orchestras – adding piano, clarinet and saxophone, for example, and allowing women to sing in the choir, a privilege that had been restricted to men before then. 

After Mohamed Larbi Temsamani’s death, violinist Mohamed Amin El Akrami took over the leadership of the orchestra, supported by Amin Plahouan. The latter is an oud player and a rising star in the Moroccan music world. They carried on in the footsteps of their predecessor by including young musicians and female voices in the ensemble. These give the orchestra its own unique charm. Orchestre Temsamani has already performed with the Amsterdams Andalusisch Orkest (AAO) a number of times, for example during a festival revolving around the oud, organised by the AAO in 2016. The orchestra generally performs with an ensemble of string instruments, oud and vocalists. Some of the singers provide rhythmic accompaniment on tambourine and darbouka (goblet drum). In their joint concert, the hadra choir, the Orchestre Temsamani and the Amsterdams Andalusisch Orkest will play a richly varied programme in which the different components will be tied together by 'taqsims' (improvisations) on the oud.

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