Sunday, November 21, 2010
When college student Supraket Meshram meets a Sufi maestro, Bol Radha Bol is an unexpected bonus
For music buff and world music lover Supraket Meshram, the experience of meeting a whirling dervish was a cherished opportunity. The exotic flavour of Sufism, Sufi music, plumes of smoke twirling with ascetic spiritual dances and chanting… there was a lot to discover.
The mass media undergraduate looked visibly nervous as he ran over his questions. The Ruhaniyat Sufi music festival venue provided just the ambience.
He was soon introduced to Mohamad Farghaly, a classical Arabic musician and a jolly-looking Egyptian with a husky voice and a copious influx of the 'kha' syllable.
With an endearing welcome, “Happy to meet you my friend. Come, let's talk music,” the nervous student was instantly put at ease.
He immediately launched into a deep and thorough explanation of Sufism and music, anticipating Supraket's question.
"I've been a practicing Sunni Muslim all my life and a lover of all things that God created. I grew up in a deeply religious and academic household since my father went to the prestigious Al-Hazar University in Cairo. I was introduced to a world of theological books and teachings and that's where I first learnt about Sufism," he explained.
"Most Muslims were against Sufism since they thought it wasn't Islamic. But all it did was follow the tenets that all peaceful religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity teach. It's in the Quran too…," he said, with a hint of frustration.
"So what makes it so intense?" "Imagine living 60 years of a full life and in the end, penning it down into one single sentence. That's how potent it is. It’s just words at the end of the day, but you can read it superficially, swim on the surface, or you can dive in," says the master, profoundly.
And while we chewed on that, the profusely sweating Egyptian says, “Man, this place is hot!” Now for someone who spent his life in a desert, that just sounds wrong. “I know what you are thinking; it's just that Egypt is hot but not humid. Here I feel like I'm melting, but I still love it," he said, putting quizzical expressions to rest.
Back to business, “Are there different sects or types of dervishes?” asks the undergrad.
“Whirling is a way to get into a trance and that's how we feel closer to God. While in Egypt, it's a celebration of life and cherishing it, the Turkish Malavi's celebrate the afterlife.
Once you get the hang of it, the heady twirling at the same spot becomes easier to handle. It's a very spiritual experience and it's all in the costumes. The skirts are how we distinguish each other. Different colours symbolise different things. The Turkish Malavi's wear white all over which represents the coffin, a black coat over it to signify the grave and a tall red hat; the tombstone."
After a heavy dose of explanations came the time for music. As his Tannura (troupe in colourful skirts) got ready to start twirling, Farghaly brought out his mandolin- styled instrument, looked at the sizable crowd and a few plucked strings later, came the lyrics, “Bol Radha Bol, Sangam hoga ki nahi!
"Egypt loves everything Indian, Bollywood included," says the maestro with a hearty laugh.
Picture: Mohamad Farghaly and his band entertain an enamoured audience with some stunning Sufi melodies and twirling. Photo: Rana Chakraborty.