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DEVOTIONAL MUSIC. The most characteristic sounds of devotional expression in Muslim communities may be the call to prayer (adhan) and the recitation of the Qur’an (qira’ah al-Qur’an). Neither of these is considered by Muslims to be music; rather, they are texts that are delivered and sometimes amplified or enhanced using selected musical devices, which are always subordinate to the text.

In Middle Eastern Muslim communities, these sounds are familiar to almost everyone. The call to prayer is heard five times daily, often broadcast over loudspeakers from mosques, but also called out by a mu’adhdhin (muezzin) without amplification in such public places as airports or market districts. Qur’anic recitation permeates life. Many Muslims recite verses to themselves; reciters provide inspiration at public ceremonies, both explicitly religious and more secular; they provide comfort to the bereaved and articulate communal sadness at the deaths of leaders or other misfortunes.

Similar sounds signify Muslim community life worldwide. The Indonesian, Indian, Pakistani, European, and North African communities, for instance, all have their own favorite reciters, many of whose readings are marketed on cassette tapes and compact discs. The sounds of the Qur’anic texts are heard not only as inspirational but also as beautiful in themselves, melodiously chanted by skilled reciters.

Sufi music-exemplified by the flutes and drums of the Mevlevi dervishes in Turkey and the chanting of men at the Sufi dhikrs around the world-forms another important component of Muslim expressive culture. As a means of drawing closer to God, the Sufi dhikr or ceremony of remembrance is the quintessential vehicle. Chanting the names of God is a widespread practice with manifestations throughout North Africa and the Middle East, in Pakistan,Indonesia, North America, and Europe. Recordings and scholarship focused on these rituals have brought the attention and ears of outsiders to this repertory. [See Sufism, article on Sufi Thought and Practice; Dhikr.]

The use of music in devotional expression and to construct the rituals of Muslim holiday celebrations extends beyond Qur’anic recitation and calls to prayer and beyond the individuals who would readily identify themselves as Sufis. Its forms are as diverse as the communities themselves. Its practices include elaborate, virtuosic solo singing of supplications, the reciting and singing of religious poetry, and group singing of religious hymnsfor instance, songs of pilgrimage to Mecca or other shrines, the ilahileri of Turkish and Balkan communities, and the indang of western Sumatra.

The work of anthropologists such as Nancy and Richard Tapper reveals a large domain of expression, neither definitely orthodox nor clearly Sufi, that many participants consider to be Muslim and devotional and in which they partake in a variety of ways. Fazlur Rahman located such practices historically in the domain of popular Islam (Islam, 2d ed., Chicago, 1979, chapter 9). Tapper and Tapper argue that they are not merely peripheral but in fact constitute important religious behavior in rituals and daily lives of Muslim communities.

Conservative theologians and historians of religion sometimes claim that these genres and practices of popular devotion are not truly “Islamic”-that they are not canonical. In the strictest sense, they are right. The place of music in Islamic culture has been disputed, as has that of the voices of women in public places. The primary theological authority, the Qur’an; has yielded no single theological interpretation, and the dispute about the propriety of music is centuries old; it is linked to the larger debate about behaviors obligatory or recommended to Muslims and those that are forbidden or discouraged.

The philosophical support for musical expression proceeds largely from the writings of al-Ghazali (d. 111    ) and Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 1273). An unimpeachable Muslim, al-Ghazali argued that music, properly engaged, actually brought one closer to God. His argument served as the theological foundation for Sufi practices and challenged the more conservative position so strongly that the role of musical performance in Muslim societies has remained contested terrain up to the present day. The propriety of musical practices and devotional practices that seem to be related to music is continually negotiated in different times and places.

Forms of devotional expression outside the domains of Qur’anic recitation and dhikr have rarely been studied, and very little is known about them beyond the boundaries of the communities of practitioners. What is known suggests that Muslim devotional expression includes a wide range of activities, extending from the home and the mosque into public celebrations. As Margaret Kartomi observed in Sumatra, the occasions for performance of Muslim devotional song range “from formal state occasions to intimate personal” ones (1986, p. 29). As such, they overlap, inform, and to some extent construct public culture in Muslim communities.

The diversity of practices is only suggested by the available literature. What is known indicates that forms of musical devotion are highly syncretic. Gamelan sekati forms part of the celebration of the Prophet’s birthday in Indonesia. Devotional indang in western Sumatra involves praise and inspirational singing with drumming and complex body movement performed from a sitting position. Qawwali melodies in Pakistan use classical Indic ragas. The ensemble of Ghulam Farld Sabri and his brother Maqbul  brought qawwali tradition together with musical devices from popular local music and classical performance to create concert performances that were at once “serious and spiritual as well as entertaining” (Qureshi, 1992/93 P. 118). The texts sung by qawwali in India are narrative, didactic, and pluralistic, intended for a pluralistic Indian population. Ways of singing religious songs bear strong links, in terms of musical system and genres, to local song traditions. Local musical and dance practices are typically coupled with concepts of sama` and Islamic religious texts to create locally viable devotional expression. Supplication is a common genre, exemplified by the du’a’ of the Middle East. This is a prayer text; ideally, it is chanted clearly and emotively by men who have license to improvise melodically on interjections in the prayer such as Ya rabbi (“Oh Lord!”). Sayyid al-Naqshabandi was a famous practitioner of this art; his recordings have been broadcast before the breaking of the Ramadan fast for decades.

The singing of praise, usually of the prophet Muhammad, characterizes devotional expression in many, if not most, Muslim communities. Panegyrics are sung throughout the world and are known by a variety of names, including na’t, madih, and munajat in Arabic speaking communities, indang in Indonesia, and kusama in Kenya. In West Africa, praise singing lies close to the practices of drumming the chiefs name or the name of a potential patron. It has been the subject of contestation, and religious authorities in the Hausa and Fulani communities have variously banned the practice or attempted to direct it toward Muslim saints and Islamic holidays. Praise singing and drumming helps constitute the Damba festival in celebration of the Prophet’s birthday in Dagbon,Ghana.

In the Arabic-speaking world, panegyrics often take the form of the sophisticated qasidah, a lengthy poem characterized by mono rhyme and mono meter, or the metrically complex tawshih, both the province of accomplished singers such as ‘Ali Mahmud (1881-1946). The venues for singing this religious poetry are extensive, from small coffeehouses to the New Cairo Opera House, home to an ensemble of male religious singers who ably perform this repertory to standing ovations and cries for encores.

In more ordinary environments, maddahin are common figures. Men or sometimes women, singing in coffeehouses, at saints’ days, and by invitation, they perform a panoply of religious songs of varying complexity. Sometimes they adapt the tunes of popular stars to religious lyrics.

Similar religious songs called dahi in Turkish contribute to the repertories of classical and folk music. In Muslim communities of the Balkan peninsula recently, performances of this genre have been adapted to expression of the current political strife. They have helped construct and affirm the identities of Muslim communities.

Many occasions for devotional expression are celebratory. The saints’ days, the feasts of Islam, and the nights of Ramadan offer venues for expression. Saints’day celebrations, notably the Prophet’s birthday, include recitations of the Qur’an and singing of religious songs alongside the dhikr ceremonies of the Sufis. These celebrations often take place in public spaces. During the nineteenth century in Egypt, the Prophet’s birthday was celebrated in Azbakiyah Gardenin the nascent theater district; more recently it is celebrated in the streets surrounding the mosque of Husayn and in many neighborhoods, such as `Abdin and Bab al-Luq.

Ramadan serves as an occasion for much devotional and related expression, including the perambulations of the masahharati, a man who walks through his neighborhood after midnight calling out, usually melodically and somewhat poetically, to wake his neighbors in time to eat before the next day’s fast begins. Talking-drum orchestras mark the celebration of Ramadan among the Yoruba. Praise singing, royal drums and trumpets, and complex call-and-response singing with drum ensembles all form part of the feasts following Ramadan in Kano,Nigeria. The venues extend from village celebrations to national radio and television and commercial recording.

Group singing of pilgrimage or other religious songs while en route to Mecca, to a saint’s tomb, or to a saint’s-day celebration similarly expresses religious commitment or devotion. Saint’s-day celebrations involve spectators and listeners. The qawwali rituals that draw large audiences at the shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi, described in detail by Qureshi (1986), exemplify these behaviors. On a more modest scale, Elizabeth Fernea’s studies of saints’ days in Morocco, focused as they are on the behavior of women, also aptly illustrate common behavior.

In Shi’i communities worldwide, music accompanies commemoration of a slightly different kind: remembering the martyrdom of Husayn occasions performances of religious song and ritual reenactments of his death and the mourning of the community, a ritual called ta`ziyah by Persian-speakers and by other names in other languages (for instance, tabut in Sumatra). [See Ta’ziyah. ]

In a general sense, all these practices are related to the Sufi theology of sama`, or engaged listening aimed at bringing the listener closer to God. This listening itself constitutes devotional behavior. Sama` lies at the heart of dhikr and forms part of its raison d’etre. Importantly, Sama` admits levels of sophistication and the possibility of learning and experience increasing one’s ability to attain closeness to God. Sama` is accessible at some level to the uninitiated and is not restricted to the learned or the committed Sufi. Thus participation extends beyond the Sufi brotherhood into the larger community of Muslims who participate in the celebration of saints’ days and religious feasts.

In the twentieth century, devotional expression has found new venues-for example, public contests in which Qur’anic recitation is judged. In Indonesia, women participate in these events and win prizes. Religious music has found its way into folk festivals such as that in Konya,Turkey. Qawwah performances are heard in films and on commercial recordings.

Not only men but also women and children participate in devotional expression. Many women competently recite the Qur’an and teach their children to do so. Some have been professional reciters, usually reciting for other women. Women and children characteristically participate in holiday celebrations at which devotional songs are sung-at celebrations welcoming home pilgrims from Mecca, at saints’-day celebrations, or during the long nights of Ramadan after the breaking of the day’s fast.

Generally the preferred medium of expression is the human voice; indeed, instrumental accompaniment has been occasionally banned. However, in some communities, musical instruments accompany the singing (even in mosques), and professional singers of religious songs have employed instrumental accompaniment for at least a century. Drums of various kinds and flutes are common in religious expression. The frame drums and hourglass drums of the Middle East, the dholak on the Indian subcontinent, and the talking drums of West Africa have all taken part in devotional expression. The Arab qanun has accompanied religious song in Egypt, the harmonium in India, and gamelan sekati in Indonesia.

Religious singing and supplication is marketed on commercial recordings. Professional singers of less weighty repertories-stars of stage and screen, for instance-have recorded topical religious songs, especially for holidays. Scaled-down qawwali have appeared in Indian films. The accomplished female Lebanese singer, Laure Daccache, became famous for her rendition of “Amint billah” (“Amantu bi-Allah”), which was possibly also her own composition; it has passed into the turath, or heritage, of Arabic religious song. Songs such as Sayyid Darwish’s “Ya `ushshaq al-Nabi” (O Lovers of the Prophet) use the language of devotion for a wedding song. This practice is very common, and the boundary of the “devotional” is not always easy to locate. Sayyid Darwish composed for musical theater and wrote many popular songs; in his personal life he was hardly a scrupulous Muslim. Yet his upbringing, in Qur’anic school and under the tutelage of Muslim family members, and his utilization of the aural components of this background, cast him among the mashayikh or learned religious people, the bearers of Muslim law and custom and Arabic literature and poetry. Throughout the twentieth century the mashayikh, popularly represented by figures such as Sayyid Darwish, have been invested as the “authentic school” of Egyptian culture. Thus Muslim devotional music moves from the circumscribed du`a’ into the larger domain of public culture and Egyptian social identity.

Muslim devotional expression has infused the musical traditions of many communities to the extent that it serves as a conservative force in the maintenance of what is perceived as authentic expressive culture. As noted above, in Egypt the mashayikh are often credited with the transmission of historically Arabic poetry and vocal aesthetics. These distinctly religious songs have passed into the turath or heritage of Arab music, and an ability to sing them, even when displayed by singers of nonreligious popular songs, marks an artist as “authentically Arab” (asil). Akin Euba (19’71) suggests that Yoruba tradition is similarly kept alive through Muslim song. In many places, as Qureshi writes of Northern India and Pakistan, Muslim devotional expressions form “part of the musical language” of the community (1986, p. 46). [See also Music; Qur’anic Recitation.]



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Recording and Video

Muslim communities worldwide market and often produce sound recordings of devotional music. These are the best exemplars of current practices and may be obtained by requesting the genres and performers from specialized dealers. The following list is a sample of ethno musicological recordings that include annotated examples of a variety of traditions and are available in libraries that collect music from around the world. (Some of the LPs listed here may be reissued as compact discs.)

Sound Recordings

Ceremonial Islamic Ritual from Yugoslavia: Zikr of the Rufa’i Brotherhood. Recorded and edited by Bernard Mauguin. (UNESCO Collection/Musical Sources) Philips 6586015

Dikr and madih: islamische Gesange and Zeremonien/Sudan. Recorded and edited by Artur Simon. Museum furVolkerkunde,Berlin, MC 1o, 198o.

Egype: l’Ordre Chazili `al-Tariga al-Hamidiyya al-Chaziliyya’. Arion ARN 64211.

Islamic religious chanting fromNorth Yemen. Recorded and edited by Joachen Wenzel and Christian Poche. (Unesco Collection/Musical sources) Philips 6586 040.

Moroccan Sufi Music. Recorded and edited by Philip Schuyler. Lyrichord LLSt 7238.

Moyen-Atlas: Musique sacree & profane. Recorded and edited by Marc Loopuyt and H. Vuylsteke. (Musiques traditionelles vivantes. V. Musiques populaires) Ocora 558587.

Music of the Waswahili of Lamu,Kenya. 3 vols. Recorded and edited by Alan W. Boyd. Ethnic Folkways FE 4093-95.

Musik frdn Tunisien. Recorded and edited by Krister Maim and Salah el Mahdi, Caprice CAP 1090.

Syrie, Muezzins d’Alep: chants religieux de l’Islam. Recorded and edited by Christian Poche. Ocora 580038.

Tunisia. Recorded and edited by Alain Danielou. (Unesco Collection/ A Musical Anthology of the Orient) Barenreiter-Musicaphon BM 3o L 2008.

Turquie: Musique Soufi. (Musiques traditionelles vivantes. II. Musiques rituelles et religieuses) Ocora 558522.

Zikr: Islamic Ritural – Rifa ‘yya Brotherhood of Aleppo. Recorded by Christian Poche. (Unesco Collection/Musical Sources) Philips 6586 030.

Video Recordings

Aita. Produced by Izza Genini. Icarus/First Run. Focused on a female singer who performs religious music.

Hymns of Praise. Produced by Izza Genini. Icarus/First Run. Focused on a saint’s day celebration in Morocco.

Lessons from Gulam: Asian Music in Bradford [England]. Produced by John Baily. Distributed by Documentary Education Resources,Watertown,Mass.Focused on a male singer of gawwali.

Nusrat! Live at Meany Hall. Produced by the University of Washington Ethno musicology program and available from the University of Washington Press, 1994. A concert of qawwali by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Saints and Spirits. Produced by Elizabeth Fernea. Directed by Melissa Llewelyn-Davies. Icarus/First Run, 1979. Focused on a saint’s day celebration in Morocco with emphasis on the experience of women.



Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/devotional-music/

  • writerPosted On: November 6, 2012
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