TURKEY - ETHNO MUSIC - The Whirling Dervishes

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The Whirling Dervishes played a vitally important part in the evolution of Ottoman high culture. From the 14th to the 20th century , their impact on classical poetry, calligraphy, and the visual arts was profound, while music was perhaps their greatest achievement. Since the dogmatists of Islam’s orthodoxy opposed music as being harmful to the listener and detrimental to religious life, no sacred music or mosque music evolved except for the Mevlud, a poem in praise of the Prophet Muhammed, chanted on high occasions or as a requiem. Rumi and his followers integrated music into their rituals as an article of faith. In his verses, Rumi emphasized that music uplifts our spirit to realms above, and we hear the tunes of the Gates of Paradise. The meeting places of the dervishes, consequently, became academies of art, music, and dance. Today, the performances of The Whirling Dervishes includes twelve musicians (on traditional Turkish instruments) and 12 dancers. There is also a master of ceremony. A performance is broken into two parts with the introduction conducted by the master followed by 3 or 4 pieces of music. This is followed by a 4-part whirling ceremony

The rituals of the Rumi’s followers (Whirling Dervishes) are among the enduring as well as the most exquisite ceremonies of spirituality. The ritual whirling of the dervishes is an act of love and a drama of faith. It possesses a highly structured form within which the gentle turns become increasingly dynamic as the individual dervishes strive to achieve a state of trans. The music that accompanies the whirling from beginning to end ranges from somber to rhapsodical; its effect is intended to be mesmerizing. Chanting of poetry, rhythmic rotation, and incessant music create a synthesis which, according to the faithful, induces a feeling of soaring, of ecstasy, of mystical flight.

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Journal Comments

  • Peter Evans
  • Aleksandar Topalovic
  • Ana Belaj
  • Andrea Ja