Sufi music lovers in Muscat are treated to a feast of devotion and passion. Hasan Al Lawati joins the swaying, clapping crowd
It was an entrancing spiritual adventure that lasted for four mystic, ecstatic nights when musicians from four countries converged
on Muscat to leave the crowds spellbound with their soulful performances.
The Bait Al Zubair First Festival for Sufi Music commenced at Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa on Monday (January 29) with Iranian band Salar Aghili treating the crowd to a feast of Persian classics and Sufi poems.
The ensemble was led by Salar Aghili of Iran’s National Orchestra, who was joined onstage by young Mirmahur Aghili, Mohammedreza Eskandari, Sahab Torbati, Harir Shariatzadeh, Alireza Daryae, Hossein Mahmoudimajd and Ali Kheshtinejad.
The outdoor venue was packed with Iranian expats who came to support and enjoy a night of Persian heritage and culture.
Omani Sufi band Al Zawya sung popular Arabic poems on the second day of the festival. Mohammed Musa Al Balushi, leader of the group, says spiritual connection with our souls is “an advanced human skill”.
He adds: “The human soul has a language that surpasses familiar words and terminologies. This language pours out in a form of emotions and travels in a parade of imagination. And nothing is more capable than music to express this language… through music we can connect with our inner soul in an efficient manner,” he says.
The band consisted of 13 Omanis from Muscat and North Al Batinah Governorates.
“The group includes talented singers and people who are interested in spiritual pursuits,” he explains.
“The festival is well organised, and that’s something Bait Al Zubair is known for. Happy to see a large turnout which was a mix of different nationalities,” Al Balushi adds.
Oman is known to be open to different cultures and forms of art. Sufi music has been alive and thriving in the Sultanate in the form of Al Malid which contains traditional Sufi elements.
Al Balushi, however, says there is no such thing as Sufi music, but rather “a good utilisation of music to send Sufi senses and sentimental messages”.
Explaining the lyrics, the young singer or ‘munshid’ says most Sufi words are about praising God.
“We pray to God for a better life and afterlife, mention his names (Al Asma Al Husna) in addition to highlighting emotions that believers feel like eagerness and love to their creator,” he says, adding that some lyrics seek to invoke the best of morals and a life of faith.”
The third night hosted the popular Fareed Ayaz Qawwal band from Pakistan.
Despite the absence of the lead singer, the band enthralled the audience with songs in Punjabi, Urdu, Arabic and other languages.
Abu Muhammad, brother of Fareed Ayaz, tells the Y magazine that Sufism is all about “loving others and being loved.”
They have performed in many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.
The festival concluded on Thursday with the performance of the Ibn Arabi Moroccan band.
Sufism, known as tasawwuf in the Arabic-speaking world, is a form of Islamic mysticism that emphasises introspection and spiritual closeness with God.
Sufi practice focuses on the renunciation of worldly things, purification of the soul and the mystical contemplation of God’s nature.
The event was part of Bait Al Zubair Foundation’s initiatives to promote the Sultanate’s rich culture in the performing arts.