By Michele Rousseau
Sufism has few ideas, but an inexhaustible wealth and variety of illustration. Among a thousand fluttering masks the interpreter is required to identify each old familiar face.
~ R.A. Nicholson, 1898
Internationally renound musician and DJ, Mercan Dede, is beloved by many nations of the world but his home country, Turkey, houses his harshest critics – those who feel that his contemporary appropriation of Sufi music, whirling dance, and ethics are an erosion of the traditions of the path.
Michele Rousseau balances the anxieties of Dede’s critics with her own experience of his music, and his extraordinary power to bring people of all walks of life together to partake in a shared experience, a “contemporary sama.”
(Photo Courtesy Yagmur Kizilok)
by Azize Güvenç with Yousef Daoud
Most of us know first-hand the transformative power of music and sound to create a profoundly calming or emotional experience, and readers know our previous issue of Sufi was dedicated to sacred encounters through music.
In their carefully researched essay Shamanic Traditions and Sufism, authors Azize Güvenç and Yousef Daoud take us into the amazing life and work of Dr. Rahmi Oruç Güvenç, a Sufi shaikh and master musician of Turkey who provides healing to the sick through music therapies that fuse Sufism with ancient shamanic practices from Central Asia.
Güvenç and his musicians combine music, movement and dhikr to awaken body, mind and soul. And researchers in Europe, the United States and Turkey are studying the positive effects of Güvenç’s sound and movement therapies on patients suffering from cancer, bone fractures, depression and other maladies.
(Photo courtesy of Azize Güvenç)
THE SOUND OF COMPLEX SIMPLICITY
by Ali Nourbakhsh
Based on references to the instrument in early literature and on depictions in ancient sculpture and illustrations of musicians playing the daf, it is widely believed that the daf has been used in the Middle East for at least 2,000 years.
(Photo courtesy of Foad Tohidi)
MUSICAL COLLABORATIONS AND BEYOND
by Sholeh Johnston and Richard Barton
Listen to each of the ten albums that Lian Ensemble has produced during its 16 year recording history and one of the first realizations that strikes you is the quality of the guest performers and the rightness of the fused sounds. Again and again one is struck by unexpected musical combinations that nonetheless have a timeless quality, enveloping listeners in a cloud that transports them beyond themselves
(Photo Courtesy of Lian Ensemble)
MUSIC IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
by Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons
I cannot imagine the Civil Rights Movement without the music we produced as we marched, sat in or were jailed. The music was the articulate voice of the masses of the people.
The music of black spirituals emerged for the suffering of African slaves in America. But how did it infuse the spirit of non-violence in the historic Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, that broke the back of institutionalize racism in the South? The scholar Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons offers a moving answer, weaving together history and music with her own personal experience as a foot-soldier for freedom in the crusade led by Dr. Martin Luther King.
(Painting by Anita Philyaw, anitaphilyaw.com)
A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
by Fitzroy MorrisseyFive different Sufi orders performed on successive days during the Festival. A Sufi tariqah is by its very nature autonomous, distinct and traditional.
In this thoughtful and beautifully written article, Fitzroy Morrisey narrates his personal experience of the 2011 annual festival of Sufi culture in Fez, Morocco. Beginning with a succinct exploration of the dichotomy between Sufism as it is commonly conceived and Sufism as it is actually lived, the author devotes the rest of the article to a thrilling description of the God-intoxicated music of diverse Sufi musicians, including classical singers, professional Sufi groups, and five Sufi tariqahs from Morocco and Turkey.
(Photo by Thierry Beauvir, beauvir.com)