Sufi Splendor

Sufi Splendor: Music for Whirling Meditation

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Like most religions that include a highly detailed and demanding ritual component, Islam has a mystical offshoot, the practitioners of which concern themselves more with achieving an ecstatic union with God than with the close observation of legalistic ritual. One subset of the Sufi sect, known as the Whirling Dervishes, achieves that state of mystical ecstasy by means of a spinning dance, followed by a period of prostrate contemplation. Multi-instrumentalist and composer Manish Vyas is joined by a small ensemble of Indian musicians on Sufi Splendor: Music for Whirling Meditation, a program of music inspired by the practice of these ancient mystics; each of the three tracks is a song based on one of the Sufi mantras, all of them simply and beautifully sung by Dina Awwad. Unlike his work with Prem Joshua, this music involves no Western club beats or lush synthesizer washes; the primary instruments are the santoor (a kind of hammered dulcimer), sarod, flute, and an African drum called a djembe. The melodies are haunting and lovely, and even the half-hour-long ones contain enough variation and complexity to make them seem to slip by quickly. Recommended.

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