One day Lal Shahbaz was wandering in the desert with his friend Sheikh Bahi ud-Din Zakariya. It was winter, and evening time, so they began to build a fire to keep warm. They found some wood, but then they realised they had no fire. So Baha ud-Din suggested that Lal Shahbaz turn himself into a falcon and get fire from hell. Off he flew, but an hour later he came back empty-handed. "There is no fire in hell," he reported. "Everyone who goes there brings their own fire, and their own pain from this world."That Sartresque story is from William Dalrymple's new book Nine Lives, In Search of Sacred India. Lal Shabaz was a 13th century Afghan Sufi saint and contemporary of Mevlana Rumi. Innovative and independent French label Accords Croisés has just released Les Chantes Brulés, Hommage à Rūmī (Songs of Rebirth, Homage to Rumi) on which classical Persian singer Ali Reza Ghorbani performs his own settings of Rumi and other Sufi poets.
In an excellent accompanying essay Saïd Assadi tells how Islamic fundamentalists are the sworn enemies of Sufism:
Those who in other times, have crucified Hallāj and Sohravardi, do not hesitate nowadays to oppress dervishes in Iran, demolish their schools or Khaneghah and their sanctuaries, ban their gatherings, imprison them and persecute them in a thousand different ways.Ali Rheza Ghorbani belongs to the so-called "new young shoots" generation which grew up in the 1970s challenging the Iranian revolution on basic questions such as the place of music in society and more precisely, in an Islamic republic. In the notes for another Accords Croisés release, Calligraphies Vocales, Ali Rheza Ghorbani tells how the attempted suppression of music by the mullahs has caused a resurgence of interest in Persian classical music among young people. Music conservatories have increased enrollments and some of the young musicians who are the product of this resurgence accompany Ali Rheza Ghorbani with traditional Persian instruments on his new CD which was recorded at Studio Kargadan in Tehran.
Songs of Rebirth, Homage to Rumi is powerful proof that totalitarian regimes can never suppress art. And for powerful evidence that the recording industry is still alive and kicking you need look no further than labels like Accords Croisés. For the story of a Western corporate classical label's adventure in pre-revolution Iran read More maestros, myths and madness.
* Topical post from Alex Ross here.
** William Dalrymple's documentary Sufi Soul - The Mystic Music of Islam is available on DVD.
This post is available via Twitter @overgrownpath. Songs of Rebirth, Homage to Rumi was purchased in the Harmonia Mundi boutique in Nantes, France, Calligraphies Vocales was borrowed from from the library in Saint Jean de Monts, France and Nine Lives, In Search of the Sacred in Modern India was borrowed from the Norwich Millenium library. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk