La Chadhiliyya: Sufi Chants from Cairo
Institut Du Monde Arabe

The thing about mysticism is that one can't just pull it up on a home page or read a few articles about the practice and gain any real understanding about its essence. The truth is that one has to experience mysticism, plain and simple, and then you realize that what you've learned is a mere glimmer of what can be had. It's not an intellectual endeavor designed for the rational mind and that, for me, is what is so cool about Sufism or any other mystical undertaking. You can get there all right, but not from here.

The group chant of Al-Adhan, a call to prayer, is offered as the gateway for Sufi Chants from Cairo. Nothing, in Islam, is more appropriate. I can't distinguish the Koranic cantillation from 'Imran, III, 31 (a solo in bayyati mode by al-Halbawi) as distinctly mystic, but that's probably my own limitation. Islamic Sufism began as early as the 8th century, and works like this serve to help the practitioner gain direct experiential contact with god using techniques that heighten concentration and spiritual awareness. American Sufis who practice rituals such as sama', or dhikr, or who participate in the swirling dances made famous by Turkish "Dervishes," will appreciate these recordings in ways that most won't.

The underlying mysticism is a barrier to the casual listener. Yet audiences other than Sufism's practitioners will appreciate the expressive Arabic poetry and Koranic detail. That is what is offered on La Chadhiliyya. I'll argue that just about any linguistic practice a thousand years in the making is worth a serious listen. Poetic, rhythmic and making use of Asma'u l-Lahi l'husna (the beautiful names of God) in various modes, this recording demonstrates techniques that inspire many and are works of linguistic beauty for everyone else. - Richard Dorsett

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