According to some great scholars, the word ‘Sufi’ is connected with Safi – “The Pure”. This soulful music is a traditional and devotional form of music that is inspired by the works of legendary Sufi poets like Amir Khusrow, Rumi, Hafiz, Bulleh Shah, and Khwaja Ghulam Farid. The roots of Sufi music can largely be found in Persia, parts of the Arabic world and South Asia. Sufi music is an integral part of Sufism and recreates the flow of the universe as a Divine Art. Sufi philosopher Hazrat Inayat Khan describes it as, “Any person who has knowledge of both outer and inner life is a Sufi.” Sufi music seeks to achieve a divine connection with God and strengthen their bonds. In short, Sufi Music can be called the “Music of the soul”.
Origin Of The Soul Stirring Sufi Music
What is Sufi music? It is a form of music that originated from the practice of Sufism. The origin of Sufi music is traced back to 8th century Persia which is presently called Iran. There are many suggested origins of the term ‘Sufi’ but there is a general agreement that the term came from the Arabic word ‘suf’ which refers to the wool which was worn by ascetics and mystics. Sufi Music found its way into Indian during the reign of the Delhi Sultanate. It has become an extremely popular form of music in India by the likes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a musical genius and Shankar-Shambhu who are among the most famous performers of this art in the modern world.
Instruments Used To Create Sufi Music
Sufi instruments differ from culture to culture and sometimes in the same region, different Sufis worship differently. A variety of instruments goes in the making of Sufi numbers. Here let’s take a look at some of the famous instruments used in creating this soulful music.
Ney is known to have a long relationship with Sufi Music. Also called the reed flute, Ney is a commonly used instrument in Sufi music and produces a beautiful whispering sound that’s soothing to the ears. The Ney basically played in Turkey, is considered a symbolic representation of the human soul. It spotlights the longing to be with God and the pain of separation from God. Ney is known to be very difficult to learn, and often it’s compared to learning a new language. The word ney is known to have come from the family of a wind instrument named “na.” which dates back many years. Made out of cane, the person who plays the ney is called “nayi” in Arabic and “neyzen” in Farsi.
The bendir is an instrument that is played in Sufi ceremonies. In Turkish, the word bendir means “a big hand frame drum”. The bendir has a snare that is usually made of gut and stretched across the head, which gives the tone a buzzing quality when the drum is struck with the palm or fingers. Bendir is a rhythm percussion instrument used in classical Turkish music. It produces two different timbres with the paint on the inner surface of the skin simultaneously with the paint. The bendir is made of plastic or leather; hence the sound quality varies according to the material of the bendir. The tone of the pulley also changes as it’s made of leather. When the leather is heated for a few minutes, a better quality of sound is obtained.
The Gimbri or sinter is a well known Sufi instrument from Morocco commonly used by Gunawan musicians. It has a low droning sound that leaves those listening to it, in a trance. A body carved from a single log, with three strings attached, has a striking resemblance to a guitar. The body of the gimbri is rectangular in shape and covered with camel skin from which protrudes a round wooden neck with three goat-gut strings attached by cloth thongs. A metal rattle is inserted at the end of the neck to give the instrument added colour. Expert instrumental players simultaneously produce the tone of the string, a drum sound on the skin, and rattle the jingles on the end of the neck by varying these three elements. This instrument is both a percussive and melodic instrument.
The santoor is a trapezoid-shaped ancient folk instrument thought to have originated in Persia. A hammered dulcimer shaped like a trapezoid box is usually made out of walnut or maple wood. Here the strings are stretched out into 25 bridges, and each bridge has 4 strings so the entire instrument has 100 strings. The strings are played by being struck with two lightweight wooden mallets held between the index and middle fingers. This traditional instrument was first present in Jammu and Kashmir which was used in folk music, but now the Sufi mystics used it as an accompaniment to their hymns.
Rabab is a lute-like musical instrument originating from Afghanistan. Popularly known as the ‘lion of instruments’ because of the importance it enjoys in Afghan music. The Rabab is a short-necked double-chambered plucked lute with three main strings, four frets, two or three long drone strings, and up to fifteen sympathetic strings. It is these condoling strings that give the rubab a very special sound. This instrument is carved out of a single piece of wood, with a hollow bowl that is covered ahead. The main body of Rabab is made from the trunk of a mulberry tree and the head from a goat’s skin which is beautiful to the eye. Strings are from nylon or intestines of young goats.
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Sufi music is considered an expression of faith, and its sacred, honest and authentic beauty attracts people from around the world. If you have a passion to learn these unique instruments, you are bound to enjoy the experience as it opens up a gateway to the exciting world of Sufism.