The various Muslim mystics, or Sufis, organized brotherhoods that incorporates music and poetry recitals into their religious practices as a mean to achieve divine ecstasy and unity with God.
Kathleen Hood watched the whirling Dervishes of Damascus, the vocalist Shaykh Hamza Shakur, and ensemble al-Kindi performed to a packed house on March, 2001, at UCLA's Schoenberg Hall. She said she loved the music and the whirling dervishes!
She writes, "The concert at UCLA consisted of four suites (wasla) from the Syrian Sufi tradition featuring Shaykh Hamza Shakkur as vocal soloist accompanied by the al-Kindi ensemble, a vocal choir (Suleyman al-Keshn and Abdallah Shakkur), and four Dervishes (Hatem al-Jamal, Maher al-Jamal, Hisham al-Khatib, and Ghassan Janid)."
Shaykh Hamza Shakkur, a muqri' (Quran reader) and the choirmaster of the Great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, is considered one of Syria's foremost vocalists of Islamic sacred music.
The Aleppo-based Ensemble al-Kindi, named in honor of the great philosopher and musician of the 8th century, was founded by Julien Jalal al-Din Weiss in 1983.
Weiss, a Frenchman who converted to Islam in 1986, plays qanun (plucked zither) in the group. The other members of the ensemble are Ziyad Qadi Amin from Damascus, Syria, who plays nay (reed flute); Muhammad Qadri Dalal, the renowned oud (plucked lute) player from Aleppo, Syria; and Adel Shams al-Din on riqq (frame drum with jingles), who is originally from Cairo, Egypt, but now lives in Paris.
The Mawlawiyya order was founded in Konya, Anatolia, by the Persian poet Jalal al-Din al-Rumi (1207–1273). The Mawlawiyya of Damascus are very few and have been threatened with closure on many occasions.
The personal prestige of Sheikh Hamza Shakkur has rescued them, for he has reached celebrity status that has allowed him to generate support for the small group.
Sheikh Hamza Shakkur’s voice emanates spiritual power that draws listeners into the mystical tradition of Sufism. Born in Damascus in 1947, Sheikh Shhakkur is a quranic reader and hymnist.
Asmar: What does the whirling of the Mawlawiyya signify?