Saturday, February 12, 2011

Is syncretic music the future?


Western classical music's search for a new more inclusive paradigm has led it to world music. Many, including Philip Glass, leading critics and this blog, have said the world music is the future. But so many east meets west project sound like awkward forced marriages. Yet beyond world music the path leads onwards towards a destination which may be a mirage or may be the future.

Syncretism is the process of reconciling contrary beliefs and involves melding practices of differing schools of thought. Syncretic music has been around for many centuries, notably in the blend of the three monotheistic religions in Moorish Spain, as captured by Jordi Savall and many others. The Middle East is also home to musical syncreticism and the recent budget re-release of Sister Marie Keyrouz and L'Ensemble de la Paix performing Hymns from Lebanon, which sets Christian texts in Arabic using early Eastern music scales is an excellent example.

More recently French gypsy musician Titi Robin, an artist who rejects the world music concept, has shown the power of syncreticism. His music embraces differing music and belief systems and is never far from mysticism. Sufism is a highly developed form of mysticism which has at its core the idea that all belief systems are united in a single religion of love.

Syrian composer and singer Abed AzriƩ, whose Arabic setting of the Gospel of John has already featured here, has developed a syncretic musical style that has found a huge audience in the Middle Eastern diaspora. His 2007 album Mystic, seen above, sets Sufi texts for voice backed by oud, violin, accordion, string base and percussion. There is no contrived authenticity, just a contemporary and accessible folk idiom which embraces differing music styles. This post is about the future of Western classical music yet not one example of syncretic music is drawn from that genre. Time to wake up and smell the soup?

* Syncretic music from India here.

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