Davod Azad brings Mevlana and Bach together for love
Although it might sound a little unusual to hear the names of 13th century Sufi scholar and poet Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi and 18th century classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach side by side in the same project, Iranian artist Davod Azad, taking inspiration from the universal tolerance of Mevlana, has brought these two names together centuries after their respective eras.
Azad, a performer and composer of classical Persian and Sufi music of international fame, was a guest of the İstanbul International Music Festival with a unique performance titled "The Divan of Rumi and Bach" at the Hagia Eirene Museum yesterday.
The concert -- which was specially introduced to the festival lineup to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the birth of Mevlana -- was a chance for audiences to discover how two personalities from diverse eras and geographies could come together in the same language of music and love.
Speaking to Today's Zaman ahead of the special concert piece, Azad said his music was solely based on "inspiration." He never spends hours and makes plans for any of his compositions.
"The Divan of Rumi and Bach" was also born of a moment of inspiration. One day when Azad was reading the verses of Rumi, a friend of his -- Melita Kalin, who had been conducting research on the music of Bach for some 15 years then -- was playing Bach on the piano. That was the day when Azad suddenly realized the harmony between the music of Bach and the poetry of Rumi, and subsequently decided to undertake this project.
In his unique blend of Mevlana's poetry with Bach's music, Azad also makes use of those aspects of traditional Persian music which are suitable for improvisation. He combines all the colors of Azeri music (which he says are "in his blood"), "tekke" or "khanqah" music, and Turkish music to create a unique sound.
In Azad's view, the musician should not stand out. "Inspiration comes when I feel like I am invisible," says the artist, adding: "I can only be a bridge between the audience and the [source of] 'unity.' If the musician cannot get rid of his or her ego, he cannot serve as a bridge."
Azad says the reason why he chose to perform Mevlana's poetry is "to become one."
He says Mevlana cannot be connected to a single place such as his birthplace in Iran or Konya in Turkey, where he lived and is buried. "Mevlana belongs to everybody. His valued ideas should be spread all over the world. That way we can create unity among all [humanity]...
Differences may exist among cultures, but eventually all cultures have similarities as they all stem from a single source -- which is love.
Their appearances might look different but all humans are the same in spirit."
The 44-year-old musician also has plans to combine Mevlana's verses with other famed composers such as Beethoven and Mozart in future projects.
A multicultural ensemble consisting of Matthew Barley on cello, Hiroko Imai on piano and Sirish Kumar on tabla accompanies Azad in his performance, constituting a beautiful reflection of Mevlana's teachings onstage.
"I did this intentionally," says Azad. This is his successful attempt to prove to the world how musicians from varied cultures and geographical locations can collaborate via a common language. Azad says he has gained much insight through this collaboration.
"I had the chance to get to know many different music styles. In the meantime, I regard as a gift the capability of existing with my own music in an atmosphere where everybody is equal."