April 01, 2011
The Independent: Sufi festival has spirits in a whirl
by Adrian Hamilton
Of all the great traditions of spiritual music, Sufi music is the least known and yet, in many ways, the most approachable. Open, cultured and non-violent, Sufism is the mystical arm of Islam, for whose adherents music, dance, chant and song become the means of achieving the abandonment of the self in the ecstasy of being part of creation. All across North Africa, right through the Middle East and into Central Asia, traditions have developed around the shrines of saints and the homes of sheikhs, which have profoundly influenced the music of the countries around them.
All the more credit, then, to the city of Nagaur in the middle of Rajasthan, India, for starting an annual festival of Sufi music four years ago. The intention, as Lady Helen Hamlyn (whose idea it was) admits, was primarily to draw attention to the place itself – an 18th century pleasure-palace within a medieval fort being restored by the Maharaja of Jodhpur with funds from the Hamlyn and Getty Trusts. The town was home to an important Sufi shrine.
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