Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Nagore Sessions: Sufi Song



A recent article appearing in The New York Times on music used in some of the city's yoga centers led me to the Nagore Sessions. These are Sufi chants accompanied by percussion from the Middle East and contemporary Western instruments.

While the musicians are from many different nationalities, faiths and backgrounds and came together to produce the Nagore Sessions, the singers (Abdul Ghani, Ajah Maideen and Sabur Maideen Babha Sabeer) are Sufis from India. They usually perform at religious and social ceremonies at the Sufi shrine of Nagore Dargah in coastal Tamil Nadu.

This song follows the qawwali style as it includes verses praising God, but I'm also told that it's sung in Tamil. Traditional Qawwali songs are mostly sung in Urdu and Punjabi, and a few in Persian.

Finding this is timely, as one of the highlights of my forthcoming In Search of the Sufis of Gujarat Photo Expedition™ is to document the Gujarati Siddis who have retained their Sufi heritage.

One of my long-term projects involves the various Sufi traditions in the Middle East and South Asia, and the Nagore Sessions reminds me of my work with the Gnawa (aka Gnaoua) of Morocco. These are also traditional Sufi music performers, albeit with African roots. During the Essaouira Gnawa festival, a number of international performers played fusion music alongside the Gnawa musicians....incredible mind-blowing stuff!!

I've produced a multimedia photomovie Gnawa: The Sufis of Africa of some of the performers at the 2009 festival.