Istanbul Sema Grubu

The spiritual power of music

The artists of the Sufi Festival talk about the special connection between music and spirituality.

Sufism is one of the most mysterious and at the same time most liberal directions within Islam. The connection with the divine is created by breaking down physical boundaries – be it through meditation, singing or dance. A central element here is introspective personal access, the spiritual path of Islam known as »Tarīqa«. Music always plays an important role, as it unleashes a very special power in the different types of Sufi ritual.

In the 2022/23 season, the Elbphilharmonie is devoting a special spotlight to Sufism. We asked the artists what music means to them, and what they believe constitutes its spiritual power.

Saami Brothers
Saami Brothers © Tapu Jaeveri courtesy LLF

»Music is the best means to get closer to our Lord.«


Rauf Saami, leader of the ensemble Saami Brothers Qawwal Party in the tradition of the ecstatic Qawwal Bachay from Pakistan:

»For us, music is the combination of sounds, instruments and words in tones and rhythms that give peace to our body, to our mind and soul, and improve them. Music increases our physical and mental abilities. And if one's physical and spiritual abilities increase, then a person can create uniformity in his/her performance.«

»It can be said about the spiritual power of music that just as other sciences are a way of approaching Our Lord, music is also a science that represents the best way to get to close to the Lord and know Him.«

Naghma-E-Israfil © Naghma-E-Israfil

»Music raises humans beyond the boundaries of all religions and the physical boundaries of countries.«


Meher Angez of Naghma-e-Israfil with Sufi music of the women of northern Pakistan:

»Music is not merely our heritage, it is also embedded in nature. There is music of its own kind in the flow of streams and rivers. There is also melody in the rapt gusts of wind, there is music in the chirping of birds, there is music in the ocean waves and in raindrops. Furthermore, music influences everything created by God. The spiritual power of music is so matchless that it is able to cure innumerable ailments. It is music that makes the human spirit fly by transforming a personality from dense to subtle, and proximity to God is possible through it. Music has the power to transform all the hatred in the world into love. Music makes it possible to impart the teaching of oneness by raising us human beings beyond the boundaries of all the religions and the physical boundaries of countries. It does not have a language, rather, it is itself a language which enters our hearts and minds.«

Mevlevi-Derwische Istanbul
Mevlevi-Derwische Istanbul © Barbara Weibel

»Music is life itself.«


Hakan Talu of the Mevlevi Dervishes »Istanbul Sema Grubu«:

»Not only music, but all of the arts, namely painting, sculpture, dance, literature and even architecture, are the building blocks of human spiritual development, almost indispensable. I think music is life itself. Ups and downs, joy and sadness, loss and rediscovery. In this respect, music means telling my own story.

If we think of spirituality as someone thinking with his heart, not his mind, and living by believing in his heart, and again in the form of hidden secrets within people, music appears as a great power that takes us to our heart, enables us to travel within, and makes us understand what we are.«

Alireza Ghorbani
Alireza Ghorbani © Sahar Saebnia

Alireza Ghorbani, master singer from Teheran:

»As we know, music is the most important of the seven arts. And for me, music is one of the best and most accessible art forms for expressing people's feelings and views, making the human mind and spirit fly, and narrating different stories.

All kinds of music, especially mystical and spiritual music, communicate easily with a person's soul and and make it fly. Music has been used for worship and for mystical conversations since ancient times, and in all religions.«

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