various artists,
The Rough Guide to Sufi Music
(World Music Network, 2001)

Sufism, a mystic order of Islam, is perhaps best known to the world through the whirling dervishes of the Turkish Mevlevi order. Though Sufi tradition varies slightly from order to order, what they each have in common is a love of music and poetry, which they use in worship to become closer to Allah.

The Rough Guide to Sufi Music is a compilation of Sufi artists from various countries including Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, Iran, Syria and Senegal. There is wholly traditional music here as well as music with Western and African influences. What is most immediately noticeable is that there is only one female artist represented here, Abida Parween of Pakistan; Sufi artists are traditionally male.

The selected tracks provide an overview of the different facets of Sufi music. The track by the Sabri Brothers of Pakistan, "Az Hoosne' Malihe Khud," has an infectious rhythm that I found myself clapping along with. Abida Parween's "Tere Ishq Nachaaya" is a quick-tempoed piece that could almost be Arabian rock; her singing is also somewhat easier to make out than her male colleagues'. The music is notable for repeating rhythms and melodies; Sufi music is well-known for its haunting and hypnotic power.

Included with the CD is a booklet that provides additional information on the music forms as well as each of the artists.

Eastern music, no matter the form, is often difficult for Western listeners to become accustomed to. It often requires more than one casual playing to distinguish the different forms, melodies and to find impassioned chanting in what might sound at first like arcane wailing. Patience is required, but that patience can be rewarded with an appreciation for the intense passion that goes into the music. This is music of love and worship and it is well worth taking the time to learn to appreciate it.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]
Rambles: 20 August 2001

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