SUFI Music

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.

Music of Georges I. Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann

arranged for Harmonio Ensemble

– SUFI Journal Issue 88

“G.I. Gurdjieff had been among the handful of spiritual pioneers to fi rst bring Eastern wisdom traditions to the West. He had traveled from the Caucasus where he was born, to investigate esoteric practices, mostly among the Sufi s but also among Christian mystics, stemming from even more ancient traditions. The practices he would utilize later in his teaching involved movement, listening to music, and contemplation of parables, the goal being to bring them to a large body of students in the West. Peter Brook began to read, Meetings with Remarkable Men, and likely the more esoteric trilogy for initiates of his “fourth way” school, Beezlebub’s Tales to His Grandson. Read more about Peter Brooks movie Meetings with Remarkable Men.

Odetta 'This Little Light of Mine'

Odetta “This Little Light of Mine”

Let it Shine

Music in the Civil Rights Movement – by Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons

– SUFI Journal Issue 83

Another song that we sang repeatedly was, “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Shine.” These words were an affirmation of our personal commitment to stand up with our individual lives against the state’s powers, the Klan’s power, The White Citizen Council’s power—all of the powers combined arrayed against us.:
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine;
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine;
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine;
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
All over Birmingham, I ‘m gonna let it shine,
All over Birmingham, I’m gonna let it shine,
All over Birmingham, I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

The Cree Sunrise Song with lyrics and English translation

The Cree Sunrise Song with lyrics and English translation

An Interview with Alex Wilson

– SUFI Journal Issue 91

The Saskatchewan River Delta system is one of the largest fresh water deltas on the planet. It’s comprised of the Saskatchewan River but also many lakes and smaller rivers and streams that are connected to that, so the place specifically where all my family is from, Pamuskatapan, means where you have to get out of the canoe and kind of pull it along. Our family name, our clan, as it is said in English, is Wassenas which means “shining light from within.” So there’s an understanding in our lineage that we’re connected, or related, to light.

VocaMe - O tu illustrata - Hildegard von Bingen

VocaMe – O tu illustrata – Hildegard von Bingen

The Living Christ & Creation Spirituality

– SUFI Journal Issue 90

The Dominican Order served as a brother/sisterhood for many historical figures whose writings and work he admired—most notably the extraordinary thirteenth-century German mystic Meister Eckhart who was tried twice and finally silenced by the Papal authorities in Avignon. In 2014 Fox published Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times. Inspired by the mystic practice and writings of Eckhart, Fox has been moved to explore medieval women mystics such as the influential lay Order of women known as the Beguines, as well as Mechtild of Magdeburg, Julian of Norwich, and other mystics, most particularly Hildegard von Bingen.

Gita Govinda : 'Priye Charuseele' - Sanskrit Poem of Jayadeva

Gita Govinda : “Priye Charuseele” – Sanskrit Poem of Jayadeva


– SUFI Journal Issue 81

Of the imaginative themes that mystical poets may use to invoke their love and longing for union with the divine, eros has proven throughout the ages to be one of the most potent and challenging. While this approach makes explicit use of the imagery of sexuality and love play, the aim of the poet is something far beyond a sensual narrative of lovers hungering for each other’s bodies. Here the poet rides the language of the sensual to realms of the sublime. Origen (185-254), the African scholar considered by many to be the first important mystic theologian of Christianity, believed that this was the most appropriate way of using language to surpass itself, writing that “God himself must be Eros if the Eros implanted in us is what returns us to him.” This tradition of the religious erotic, which can be found in the songs and poems of many traditions and cultures, invokes the highest of love relationships through imagery that uses the language of bodily desire as a gateway to express intimacy with the sacred.

Lian Ensemble with Sima Bina

Lian Ensemble with Sima Bina

Musical Collaborations and Beyond – SUFI Journal Issue 83

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. The surprisingly perfect unity the group creates between different musical traditions resonates with samā, the Sufi principle of music in which the devoted darvish hears with spiritual ears the ancient anthem of the one God, causing the listener to vanish so that only tawhid (unity) remains. The key to Lian Ensemble’s enduring presence in the Los Angeles and wider world music scenes is this ability to reinvent themselves with each new project.

Tribute to Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.

Ajoy Chakraborty, Rashid Khan, Tejendra Narayan Majumdar, Anindo Chatterjee, Bhavani Shankar tribute to Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.

Coleman Bark’s introduction to Tagore’s Gitanjaliin – Sufi Journal Issue 81

Rabindranath Tagore is one of the great universal mystics. As you read his Gitanjali (Song Offerings), you feel the depth and the honesty of his experience, “the great lifelong adventure,” he calls it.

“We are in the process of being created. We may not know exactly what is happening. But we feel the flow of life in us to be one with the universal life outside. The relation of my soul to this beautiful autumn morning, this vast radiance, is one of intimate kinship; and all this colour, scent, and music is but the outward expression of our secret communion. This constant communion, whether realized or unrealized, keeps my mind in movement; out of this intercourse between my inner and outer world I gain such religion, be it much or little, as my capacity allows: and in its light I have to test the scriptures before I can make them really my own.”

Rumi - Poem of the Atoms - By Armand Amar - From the movie Bab’ Aziz

Rumi – Poem of the Atoms – By Armand Amar – From the movie Bab’ Aziz

Trust In Love: Bab’ Aziz: The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul – SUFI Journal Issue 81.

Bab’ Aziz is the third film in director Nacer Khemir’s desert trilogy, and it is arguably his most approachable work to date. Khemir tends toward a surreal approach and this works brilliantly in the context of this decidedly Sufi story. The characters that populate the film do a great deal of searching, all in different forms, but seemingly towards the same goal: simply, to find the Beloved.

A Dream in Nihavend featuring Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol on the Continuum Fingerboard

A Dream in Nihavend featuring Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol on the Continuum Fingerboard

The Ecstasy of Music –  SUFI Journal Issue 89.

At the turn of the millennium, successful jazz musician Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol embarked on an odyssey of discovery that would profoundly reshape his musical career as a composer and performer. Fourteen years later in December 2014, Sanlıkol’s composition “Vecd,” a piece that channels the rhythmic and spiritual essence of Turkish Sufi music through the instruments and modalities of western orchestral music, was nominated for a Grammy Award. On the eve of opening his latest operatic project, Sanlıkol shared his story with SUFI.

American Sufi Project (USA), at Sufi Sutra 2016 Goa

American Sufi Project (USA), at Sufi Sutra 2016 Goa

Out of the “Melting Pot” – The American Sufi Project  –  SUFI Journal Issue 90.

In the summer of 2012, tech entrepreneur Sharib Khan happened upon a dergah (Sufi meeting house) on his way to Friday prayers in New York City, and began to take part in the Thursday dhikr (devotional chanting) sessions. Inspired by the dhikr and the musicians he met there, Sharib set about forming a group to record an album of Sufi devotional music, encompassing all of the various Sufi traditions represented by those who gathered at his dergah. The result was the launch of the American Sufi Project (ASP) and their first album, (Vol 1). Sharib and Dan Kurfirst, Creative Director of ASP, sat down with us to share their story.

Sain Zahoor - Kalaam Bulleh Shah | Sufi Fest - Peace Jam 2014

Sain Zahoor – Kalaam Bulleh Shah | Sufi Fest – Peace Jam 2014

Pakistan’s Mystic of Music –  SUFI Journal in Issue 83.

There are people who walk the earth as if they have walked upon it for centuries. Sain Zahoor Ahmad is one of them. A living repository of the poetry of Baba Bulleh Shah, Zahoor is known for his ektara (one-stringed instrument), bell-clad feet and colorful garb reminiscent of Joseph’s “coat of many colors.” Bulleh Shah, a 17th century Punjabi poet famous for his heartrending poetry, breathes again in the vocal chords of Sain Zahoor.

'Om Namah Shivaya' - Krishna Das

‘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. ”

'Paare Loye Jaao' by Parvathy Baul

‘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.”