Sufi Festival

Between ecstasy and asceticism: with dancing dervishes, Persian love songs and classical music from Afghanistan, this festival paints a fascinating portrait of Sufism, from Pakistan and Turkey to Morocco

As the mystical and spiritual tradition of Islam, Sufism has fascinated people for centuries. Trance and transcendence lie side by side here as a Sufi seeks the presence of God in the dissolution of physical boundaries, either through asceticism or ecstasy, meditation or dance. The emphasis is on inward-focused, direct personal access – the spiritual path of Islam known as »tarīqa«. As a result of this approach, Sufism has retained a liberal position that sets it apart from orthodox schools of thought. Over three days, this Elbphilharmonie festival paints a portrait of Sufism through artistic means. That’s only natural considering that music has always played a central part in this movement.

The festival brings together prominent representatives of various Sufi orders, who make up a transboundary cross-section, both stylistically and politically, of the Muslim world, from Pakistan and Turkey to Morocco.

Here in western Europe, the most familiar of these are probably the »whirling dervishes« who dance themselves into a trance in »sema« rituals. Before that, the Safar Ensemble performs classical music from Afghanistan. On the second day, the Naghma-E-Israfil Ensemble demonstrates that women also have an important part to play in Sufism. In the evening, Mehdi Qamoum performs a »lila« ritual lasting several hours, with captivating music and tea breaks – this is how the Gnawa minority ethnic group in the Maghreb remembers its cultural roots.

The festival’s closing concert opens with Persian love songs penned by the great Sufi poets Rumi and Hafez. The sons of the grand master Ustad Saami then bring their father’s ecstatic Qawwali singing style into the present with power and precision.

Supported by Stiftung Elbphilharmonie