Friday, October 5, 2007
Tunis: Sufi music, which has always been an important part of Tunisian culture and is especially popular during the holy month of Ramadan, has undergone several changes over the years.
Sessions of Sufi music and "thikr" (remembering God) are held throughout Ramadan's evening, and although the spirituality of these gatherings remains unaltered, the techniques and instruments used have come under change.
This is quite evident in the Spiritual Music Festival, held here every Ramadan.
The festival's director Dr. Lutfi Al-Marayhi tells KUNA that "this form of spiritual music is very much a part of Tunisia culture."
He explains that the "Rababa" (single-string instrument played with a bow) that was used in the past was now replaced with the "Kamanja" (stringed instrument of the fiddle family).
Also, "Rababiya" troupes, formally composed of female members only, were no longer so.
Al-Maryahi stresses, however, the need to "develop the linguistic address of this music, in line with traditional forms of music, in order to preserve cultural Sufi music."
He explains that traditional forms of music have been "renewed" in the 1940s by many renowned composers, and that this created "a gap" between traditional and spiritual music forms."
The director also notes the attempts to transcribe Sufi music.
[Picture: A traditional kamancheh player, photographed in the 1860s or 1870s. Photo from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamanja].