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On air: Can music transform society?

Claudia Bradshaw Claudia Bradshaw | 13:00 UK time, Tuesday, 8 June 2010

jacarandatree.jpgThis is my first visit to Morocco and the city of Fes. It's an easy place to fall in love with. I'd never seen a purple flowering tree before and so the Jacarandas were the first things to catch my eye. Thousands of swifts fly about the old city walls of the Medina at dusk adding to the dream like quality of the city. At night the streets are packed with families, couples and friends hanging out together. It's not surprising some of the international visitors I've spoken to have been coming back for years.

I'm at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, set up after the first Gulf war to create cultural bridges between Muslims, Christians and Jews.

AmadouandMariam.jpgA few of the acts I've seen include Sufi singers from Zanzibar, Cambodian ballet and a blind couple from Mali called Amadou and Mariam, who after years of struggle have become international stars.

After 9/11 the festival became a forum for discussion for academics, artists, politicians and religious leaders. I met one of this year's speakers Lord Ahmed. He was sent to Sudan by the British government to negotiate the release of a teacher who'd been put in prison for naming a teddy bear after the Prophet MuhammadLordAhmed.jpg.

No doubt I'll return home with some wonderful memories from the few days I've spent here in Fez. But if it improves my understanding of different religions and cultures, will it make a contribution to a more peaceful world? 

Only last month Morocco hit the headlines for expelling foreign Christians for the 2nd time this year. The authorities accused them of trying to convert local Muslims to Christianity. Indiandancers.jpgIt seems that Morocco still has plenty of room to improve its interfaith relations. Can a music festival make any difference?

Musicians have cancelled their concerts in Israel following recent tensions, leading one promoter to call it 'cultural terrorism.'

In South Africa, Julius Malema's song 'Kill the Boer' had a far from peaceful effect, though supporters of the ANC would argue the song itself has not caused any violence. 

Music festivals are held every year all over world. While they are wonderful things to attend, do they resolve any serious differences between people of different faiths and cultures or is that really down to the less glamorous work of community leaders and politicians whose talks and negotiations happen mostly behind closed doors?

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