Sufis Chants of Allepo ~ a tribute to Jalaluddine Weiss
He was born "Julien", in Paris, but was, as Musicologist Peter Culshaw put it, "one of those often eccentric Europeans who become so fascinated with Arabian culture that they go native". He died Friday, January 2nd 2015. He was 61 years old.
The Al-Kindî Ensemble, founded in 1983 by Julien Jalaluddine Weiss in Aleppo, capital of northern Syria and a stopping place on the famous Silk Road, was rated among the best groups devoted to classical Arab music, owing to the musical qualities displayed by its performers, and to the high standard of its work, steeped in the various musical traditions of the near and middle East.
Al Kindi were a Takht Sharqi (traditional oriental ensemble), composed of a qânun (a table zither with pinched strings), an Oud (oriental lute), a Nay (reed flute) and a riqq (small tambourine with little cymbals).
Under Jalaluddine's leadership, the group performed the classical Arab repertoire setting the instruments into sharp relief, thus re-establishing a balance which very often exclusively favoured the sung melody.
Aleppo has been an important centre for Sufism since the thirteenth century, when the rulers of the Ayubid dynasty started building Sufi convents (khanaqa) and lodges (zawiya, pl. zawaiya) as part of their policy of fostering Sunni Islam against the threat of Ismaili Shi‘ism and the Crusaders. Aleppo was a cultural crossroad due its geographical location and its function as a trading centre to where converged caravans coming from Anatolia, Iran, Mesopotamia and southern Syria. This cosmopolitan environment was reflected in the doctrinal and ritual traits of the Sufism practiced in Aleppo, which fused mystical trends developed in the Arab, Turkish and Persian religious and cultural contexts. Under the Ottoman Empire some Sufi tariqas (Brotherhoods) where organised into centralised and hierarchical structures, putting the local zawiyas under the leadership of a Shaykh Al-Mashaykh.
Up until the tragedy of the war in Syria, the permanence and expansion of Sufism in Aleppo showed that there is no inherent contradiction between Sufi practices or beliefs and modernity.
The concert at Bab Makina was in two parts. First up was a small tariqa half of whose members live in France the other half in Syria.
|Photo: Priam Thomas|
However, the audience were focused on one end of the stage where three of the Turkish Khalwatiyya were waiting . Unlike the Dervish performance the previous night where the whirling was an integral part of the spiritual performance, the display at Bab Makina, totally upstaged the music. It was not necessarily a bad thing, more that they were highly visible on the raised stage and brighter lighting. The audience were mesmerised.
As on the previous night, dancer Burak Bildik (pictured above) gave an amazing display of whirling. His eyes closed, he appeared lost in a sea of tranquility, his mind elsewhere. His fellow dancers were excellent but lacked his finely tuned grace and fluidity.
The second group was, in sound and appearance, like many Arabic Orchestras. It comprised a singer and solo violinist and orchestra leader, out front of a row of nattily dressed gentlemen. These gentlemen, included two young male backing vocalists, a 2nd violin, qânun, oud, double bass and three percussionists.
|Photo: Priam Thomas|
The formula for much of the programme was a slow and melodic introduction, vaguely reminiscent of a taqsim. Then, with a sudden flourish of tambourines or glissando on the oud and qânun, the tempo would kick up a gear and the musicians would romp on into a medley of songs.
|Sufi fans come in all sizes|
Photos and text: Priam Thomas and Sandy McCutcheon
Apology: Due to a technical glitch we are unable to bring you the reports from today's Round Tables
Tomorrow's Programme (Note: Afternoon at Batha Museum is a concert not a Round Table)
10am Round Table Final Discussion
4pm Batha Museum - Concert: Shaykh Hassan Dyck & Muhabbat Caravan
8.30pm Concert at Bab Makina: Samaà by Moroccan Sufis and Andalusian music
Saturday's weather: Partly cloudy. Top temperature 25 Celsius. Minimum 12.
|Bab Makina - Photo Priam Thomas|
See our other Sufi Festival reports
Sufi Festival ~ Day One
Sufi Festival ~ Day Two
Sufi Festival ~ Day Three
Sufi Festival ~ Day Four
Sufi Festival ~ Day Five
Sufi Festival ~ Day Six