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Saturday, May 18, 2013
- London is hosting one of the largest Islamic festivals ever held in Europe and the “Sufi Music Village” promises one of the musical highlights of the year.
“In the past we have organised other musical events which included musicians from Morocco and Pakistan,” says Peter Culshaw, one of the organizers. “While working with so many international musicians we were surprised to find out how many have been influenced by Sufism. Eventually we became obsessed with this movement and decided to devote an entire festival to this spiritual movement which would include artists from all over the world.”
Sufi Music Village which opens the first week of July will feature such musical luminaries as the enchanting New Ensemble from Jakarta, the acclaimed Said Guissy’s Aissawa group from Morocco and Whirling Dervish dancers from Turkey.
“We will also feature the Wadali Brothers from the Pujab as well as the Mehr and Sher Ali’s Qawaali group from Pakistan. We felt that during the anniversary year of India’s partition that it was important to have both a group from India and one from Pakistan in the same festival, says Culshaw.
“In many ways their presence together embodies the very spirit of Sufism that of tolerance and love.”
Sufism is a mystical form of Islam. The movement began both as a reaction against the formalism of traditional Islam and a search for a ‘personal’ relationship with God. Its name is derived from the Arab word used by early Muslim mystics for the woollen clothing worn by devotees.
In its later evolution Sufi mysticism received fresh inspiration from other practices including Christian monastic orders, Buddhist practices and neo-platonic philosophy. From its early roots Sufism has become an international movement with devotees as far afield as the U.S and South Africa.
Culshaw states “I think it is always difficult to define what Sufism really is. Often no two practitioners will agree. But I feel that Sufis are generally trying to achieve a higher state of awareness and through this trance like state a closer relationship to God.”
Many of the artists who are taking part in this festival are not themselves practising Sufis but all have been greatly influenced by its gentle philosophy, which embraces rather than excludes other cultural and religious practices.
Sufi Music Village is the fifteenth festival to run by the organizers and follows in the wake of last year’s hugely successful South African Music Village.
Through a combination of local authority funding and commercial sponsourship the event has proved a popular summer feature.
“I have been involved in helping to organise these festivals since I wrote an article about the Caribbean Music Village in 1992,” says Culshaw. “Since that time there have been an Ethiopian Music Village in 1993, Morocco in 1994, Pakistan in 95 and South Africa last year. We feel that it is important to use music to broaden peoples horizons and perhaps give them a fresh view of the world.”
Although the prominent feature of this year’s festival will be music it will also feature visual the art form of Ebru as well as theatre.
Ebru is a traditional term used for the marbling technique, or waterface painting which has long been associated with Sufism. Ebru artists use natural chemicals to create exquisite marble patterns which are than transferred to papeer or other materials. This traditional art is currently enjoying a renaissance in Turkey, with several contemporary artists developing their own technique.
“We are mounting an exhibition which will include the work of such acclaimed artists as Alpasian Babaoglu, Ahmet Coktan and Salih Elhan. We are also including story telling which is a central strand of Sufi tradition,” says Culshaw.
Sufi stories aim to provide revealing and often humorous insights into life’s eternal mysteries. Sufi Music Village offers a new perspective on artistic accomplishment and spiritual love, he adds.