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Sufi music: A passage to the surreal

art-and-culture Updated: Mar 17, 2011 17:30 IST
Kanika Johri
Kanika Johri
Hindustan Times
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There's probably just one thing Sufi and heavy metal music have in common, that nothing compares with watching the performances live. Not even close.

Sufi is one of those few genres of music where it's not so much about the nuances and technical perfection as the aura of the mehfil (gathering), to be precise. The open space, the calm atmosphere and the binding factor, the music. What's most amazing about these gatherings is that even if one goes by himself/herself (as I did) it's still possible to connect with all the strangers around, in a strange kind of way.

The World Sufi Music Festival at the Humayun Tomb saw an overwhelming response as thousands of people were seated on diwans (backless sofas) leaning on masnats (bolsters) almost lost to oblivion in the music.

"The music was good but the best part is the ambience all around and the aura that's built from music, says Dr Sanjeev Nirvan, after attending the festival on all three days.

This festival called Jahan-e-Khusrau was dedicated to one of the stalwarts of Sufi poetry Amir Khusrau, who himself was a disciple of Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya, even equating him to God.

As the Nizami brothers performed one of Khusrau's most popular and possibly the most 'covered' renditions Chhaap tilak sab chheeni, one could see several lips moving in unison and the audience swaying in the trance mesmerised.

It feels like the voice and the music is coming from the heart and not from the throat. There is a gay abandon as these artists sing with a khulla gala, as they say, which resonates in the open air space around them.

It is believed that Sufi poets considered themselves lovers of the Almighty and some even believe selves to be one with the Lord. When you are at the mehfil listening to these Sufi singers you start believing it.