Al-Fatiha ~ The Opening
When I mentioned A Love Supreme, Yusef Lateef gave me the same self-effacing response he offered in his memoir, The Gentle Giant: that the inspiration for the composition came from Coltrane's late Muslim wife, Naima. Coltrane heard her recite the fatiha five times a day. "I can only say that John and I, we were dear friends, we were trying to advance our music together. I don't know if I encouraged him to read the Holy Quaran. My guess is his wife, Naima, encouraged him to read the Holy Quaran, Khalil Gibran and Krishnamurti. The prayer that John wrote in A Love Supreme repeats the phrase 'All praise belongs to God no matter what' several times. This phrase has the semantics of the second sentence of the fatiha. The Arabic transliteration is 'Al Humdulillah,' and that means 'All praise is due to God.'"That illuminating perspective on the genesis of a contemporary music masterpiece comes from Rebel Music, an important literary celebration of the global impact of Muslim music subcultures by Columbia University lecturer Hisham D. Aidi. Staying on the same path, a recent contribution by me to The Institute of Composing Journal suggested that classical music can learn from John Coltrane. Other illuminating perspectives on the unexpected Islamic origins of Western masterpieces from elsewhere on An Overgrown Path are the theories that Ravel's Bolero was inspired by the composer attending a Sufi dhikr in Tunisia, and that the Rite Of Spring's primeval energy had its origins in the sema (worship ceremonies) of the Turkish Cerrahîlik Sufi brotherhood. Even more outlandish, but still with some circumstantial support, is Abdalqadir as-Sufi's supposition that the Grail in Parsifal is nothing other than the Black Stone of the Ka'aba in Mecca.
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'I have heard that Ravel had contact with a Sufi group in Tunisia, and that his bolero was composed as a dhikr - that is, as a means of evocation of the divine. As well as a verbal dhikr is a formula that is repeated again and again with the intention of remembering God more and more deeply, we can also use the bolero to deepen and intensify a concentration on the divine, and for those who try it there will be no doubt that the final musical outburst express an ecstasy.
Hope all is well, pli?