The Blog

My Journey to World Sufi Spirit Festival (Part Two)

It is truly an ancient and global stage for a mystical tradition whose own history witnessed the building of the very walls of the fort of Jodhpur when Rao Jodha laid the first corner stone in 1459.

"Every war and every conflict between human beings has happened because of some disagreement about names. It is such an unnecessary foolishness, because just beyond the arguing there is a long table of companionship set and waiting for us to sit down. What is praised is one, so the praise is one too, many jugs being poured into a huge basin. All religions, all this singing, one song. The differences are just illusion and vanity. Sunlight looks a little different on this wall than it does on that wall and a lot different on this other one, but it is still one light. We have borrowed these clothes, these time-and-space personalities, from a light, and when we praise, we are pouring them back in." Rumi - One Song

Sufist expression is one of poetry and devotion - from the words and music to the performance and dance. This week the city of Jodhpur in India will play host to The World Sufi Spirit Festival some of the world's most exciting Sufi performers and mystics from India and Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Morocco and the UK.

It is truly an ancient and global stage for a mystical tradition whose own history witnessed the building of the very walls of the fort of Jodhpur when Rao Jodha laid the first corner stone in 1459. The 15th Rathore ruler and descendant of the sun, Rao Jodha created his fort on the hill of Bhakurcheeria and it is this amazing backdrop of the fort and the royal palace, 400 feet above the city of Jodhpur, that offers such an incredible stage for this celebration of Sufism. The Mehrangarh Fort stands in burnished red sand stone, an imposing and invincible beauty and the finest example of a living Hindu fortress. The gardens, the ramparts, the temple and the old zenana, the throne room and the courtyards will all play host to a celebration of the human spirit.

What about the performers? The organisers of the World Sufi Spirit Festival have brought together the most impressive programme of singers, musicians and dancers to express themselves from all over the world. Within the walls of Jodhpur we will listen to the sacred musical traditions of Rajasthan, the modern traditions of contemporary Indian music and our own Moroccan-British interpretations. This then will be a celebration of both the past and the present of Sufi.

"I believe in the religion of love, whatever direction its caravans may take, for love is my religion and my faith." Muhyyeddin Ibn Arabi (1165-1240 CE)

As the co-founder of a gender equality charity, I cannot wait to see the women of Rajasthan perform. I will be mesmerised by their songs and their stories. The Fakirs and Bauls of Bengal will chart the ancient history of Sufism through their "Songs of Free Men." Our journey will then take us to Badakhshan and Tajikistan where we will hear the spiritual and folk songs of the Pamir. Of course I cannot wait to see the Tran-Shamss Ensemble - the amazing whirling dervishes alongside performances by the incredible Shirzad Fataliyev, Elshan Mansurov and Reshad Ibrahimov. Arzu Aliyeva from Azerbaijan will be a personal highlight as will the songs of Abir Nehme whose holy inspiration takes roots from the Aramean, Syriac and Byzantine orthodox traditions. Abir will certainly will take us all on an emotional journey.

Kavita Seth and Javed Bashir will provide the stepping stones between modern Indian cinema soundtracks and the ancient roots of Sufi and Ghazals. Whilst my country-man Mohammed Ba Jeddoub provides the link between Andalusian and Moroccan music - something that is so close to my own creative background. We are honoured to be bringing our own voices to this incredible event, performing alongside such incredible devotional talent. We cannot wait for the city of Jodhpur to sing with the ancient rites of Sufi, a multitude of voices from every corner of the world.

"Come, let's scatter roses and pour wine in the glass; we'll shatter heaven's roof and lay a new foundation. If sorrow raises armies to shed the blood of lovers, I'll join with the wine bearer so we can overthrow them. With a sweet string at hand, play a sweet song, my friend, so we can clap and sing a song and lose our heads in dancing." Hafiz of Shiraz