Istanbul International Music Festival–Part 2: Rumi

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Program: #07-21   Air Date: May 14, 2007

This year marks the 800th anniversary of the birth of the great mystic poet--we'll go to his burial place in Konya and hear a are Sufi ceremony.

NOTE: All of the music on this program is from two recordings that celebrate the Sufi tradition in honor of the celebrations for the birth of the poet Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi. The following is
from the web site maintained by the linear descendants of Rumi,

Mevlana who is also known as Rumi, was a philosopher and mystic of Islam, but not a Muslim of the orthodox type. His doctrine advocates unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness, charity and awareness through love. To him and to his disciples all religions are more or less truth. Looking with the same eye on Muslim, Jew and Christian alike, his peaceful and tolerant teaching has appealed to men of all sects and creeds.

Mevlana was born on 30 September 1207 in Balkh in present day Afghanistan. He died on 17 December 1273 in Konya in present day Turkey. He was laid to rest beside his father and over his remains a splendid shrine was erected. The 13th century Mevlana Mausoleum with its mosque, dance hall, dervish living quarters, school and tombs of some leaders of the Mevlevi Order continues to this day to draw pilgrims from all parts of the Muslim and non-Muslim world

This program is made possible in part by a grant from the American-Turkish
Council, Raymond James International Holding (independent investment
and financial planning advice and investment banking services in the United
States and Turkey since 1962), and the American Friends of Turkey.

I. Dervish Sufi Chants and Song
(Recorded live at Rumi's burial place in Konya on June 22, 2003). A 2 CD set on EarthCDs:

From the notes by Erkan Alkis:

A Dervish is simply a person dedicated to following his heart and living his life for the Love of the Creator alone. Dervish means threshold, the one who helps people step over the threshold and enter through the doors of Love. It also means being humble and helping others in the journey to their destination. Dervish music reflects both the physical and spiritual journey of the mind and body. Mantric chanting is also a crucial part of Sufi meditation called zikir and literally means rememberance, recollection and calling the name of God. "God is Most Great" (Allahu Akbar), is repeated over and over, often linked with bodily movement or breathing. Repetition of rhythm and melody creates a meditational space that, when accompanied by chanting, becomes the central point of Sufi music. Sound is universal. Every person hears, sleeps and is born with the sound of the heartbeat. The sound of the bender (framed drum) is close to the sound of the heart, whose beat continuously measures life. human breathing becomes musical when it is made conscious, invoking God's beautiful names. The music of the zikir (dervish ceremony of rememberence) is symbolic of the voice of creation, symbolized by chanting and whispering Allah repeatedly.

As described in Holy Qur'an, at the beginning there was nothing, then God said "Be" and everything came into existence. Sufis believe that everything was created by sound. Sound is simply a vibration, as is Life itself. When our body and soul are harmonized with the vibration of the universe, then we are truly filled with the overwhelming, positive energy - Peace. The beat of the bender represents the importance of Life, while the dervish's voice brings the influence of the spiritual world into Life. The Sufi dervish focuses on the absolute nature of the world which is continually created and dies in every breath we take. Physical and spiritual bodies become one single source of self. Awareness of the Absolute moves back and forth in a pattern similar to the rhythmic waves of the breath in meditation. This leaves one in harmony with the movement from existence to non-existence with every breath he takes.

Sufi musicians sing beautiful gazels (vocal improvisations) about their master's life and death as well as prayers for inner peace, happiness and love. In Sufi belief, death is regarded as waking from a dream. The Sufi master, Mevlana Jeladdini Rumi, considered the occasion of death to be his marriage night with God/Allah - the night that lover and beloved became one.

The recording was made on in Konya, Turkey by Lawrence Millard.

II. Arabo-Andalusian Sufi Songs
(Ensemble Ibn Arabi). Long Distance (France) CD 450103--distributed by Harmonia Mundi:

Here is the review of this disc by World Music Central:

The mystical facet of Islam known as Sufism has long regarded artistic expression as a path to greater connection with God. Sufi beliefs flourished alongside the greater expanding influence of Islam over the centuries, and the musical rituals of its followers ranged from highly esoteric and ecstatic to more restrained, sometimes merging with the folkloric traditions of the regions where Sufi ideology found favor. The Morocco-based Ensemble Ibn Arabi recreate, in beautifully low-key fashion, the music that emerged from the zaouias (Sufi meeting places) in Spain back when that nation was a home to the cultures of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The tracks on this disc resonate with a richness that seems rooted in the distant past, though some of the viewpoints espoused in the lyrics (such as the unequivocal "I Believe in the Religion of Love") would do well to take on new meaning nowadays. Musically, things stay at the soothing, meditative end. Songs that often wax whimsically on the nature of love both human and divine float along a current of longing vocals, oud (lute), qanun (zither), ney (flute), violin and the echo of lightly rumbling frame drum. Improvised solo instrumental passages (known as taqsim) connect the songs in a manner reflective of the exchange of ideas so valued in the zaouias of old, representing also the cooperative spirit shared by the ensemble as musicians and preservers of a tradition that they obviously treasure. Sufism has found a greater niche in today's world through the popularity of such forms as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's ecstatic qawwali music and Hassan Hakmoun's Gnawa trance tunes, but this softer side of Sufi also plentifully nourishes the desires of the soul.

Composer Info

Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi

CD Info

CD 450103

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