Music can be transforming, healing, inspiring exciting, disturbing, soothing, and profoundly moving—but what makes it sacred?
Nearly all religious and spiritual traditions use the human voice and select musical instruments as expressions of, and connections to the sacred. The vibratory experience of attunement with the sacred is created not only through the intent of the musician, but through the sincerity and the vulnerability of open-hearted listening. In the words of Hafiz: “People say that on hearing the song the soul entered the body, but in reality the soul itself was song.”
Sufi music has been part of the ritual practice of sama’ from the tenth/eleventh century CE (if not earlier). A sama’ session usually starts with music and singing of poetry and gradually builds up to chanting of a name or phrase (remembrance of God) under the direction and attention of a Sufi master. Although there is a difference between Sufi music as ritual practice and Sufi music as performance, there is no question that in both instances the sacred is the focus of the production and its guiding force.
The source of the sacred is within and without, in silence and in sound. Here we offer a selection of sacred music from all traditions, including Sufi music.
‘Om Namah Shivaya’ – Krishna Das
Krishna Das was interviewed for SUFI Journal in Issue 83.
“The melodious, open-hearted singing of Krishna Das—or KD, as friends and fans most often call him—has carried the devotional power of Indian kirtan music to millions around the world. Ecstatic fans have turned him into something of a rock star of Indian devotional music, making him arguably the most famous performer of kirtan in the history of a musical form dating back five hundred years. ” Read more.
‘Paare Loye Jaao’ by Parvathy Baul
Parvathy Baul shared her thoughts with SUFI Journal in Issue 83. She continues to share her spirit and joy through music.
“The Baul say that we are searching, and this path of searching is itself the aim of the search. Music is ever existent in all the creation, in life and in death. As we say, when the universe was created there was only the sound OM. The ektara (one string instrument) is held mostly by the right hand of the Baul singer and held very close to the right ear, which gives the singer a constant Om sound. On this base the Baul voice travels. Music opens the heart; music can be a vehicle to transcend, to transform, and to bring a direct experience of inner happening here and now. A Baul would say that I sing and dance to impress my beloved so my beloved will come and reside in my heart. My master once told me, “A song is nothing but dance of breath.” For a Baul, music is the straight way to connect to the divine.” Read more.