Sufi Night is the highlight of our season, dedicated to music from the Sufi world. As this 12th edition approaches, we invite you to learn more about the two rituals presented: the dawrān ceremony in Turkey and the zikroulah in Senegal.
A short introduction to Sufism
Sufism is a mystical current of Islam that spans a broad swathe of the globe, stretching from West Africa to Indus, via North Africa, the Middle East and South-eastern Europe.
The term ṣūfī emerges at the end of the 9th century to describe the mystical practices of Islam. From the 12th century onwards, the movement began to organise itself into religious orders and to develop a hierarchy. Thus, were born a series of brotherhoods, of which today’s best known examples are the Khalwatiyya, the Madaniyya, the Mouridiyya and the Qadiriyya.
Sufis choose to embrace a mystical and ascetic life. Spiritual retreats are therefore essential to their inner quest. In order to attain a state of grace (waǧd), Sufis submit, as disciples, to the doctrine of their spiritual guide, and together take part in ceremonies that mix prayer, music, chanting, dance and poetry. Each brotherhood has its own rituals, such as the dawrān of the Khalwatiyya brotherhood in Turkey, or zikroulah, used by the Baye Fall of Senegal.
In Turkey, dervishes from the Khalwatiyya brotherhood perform the dawrān ceremony, a ritual in memory of God. For them, expressing their love for God is shown through body language and music. In Sufi belief, before Creation, the human spirit lived alongside God. The dawrān ritual evokes this original union between the human and the divine through dance and collective prayer.
During the first part of the ceremony, the dervishes sit in a circle, evoking this original union. Under the direction of the sheikh, they begin by offering a blessing to the Prophet. Then, after a series of Koranic chants and cantillations, the dervishes rise.
It is during the second part of the ceremony, dedicated to the human adventure, that the dawrān as such begins. The participants hold hands and utter the different names of God after the sheikh. At the same time, musicians beyond the circle sing Sufi songs. The circle then slowly rotates, echoing the circular movements that animate matter. The tempo then accelerates. At a signal from the sheikh, the dawrān stops, and, after a series of songs in unison, the ceremony ends with a prayer.
Baye Fall and zikroulah
Bayefallism is a branch of Mouridism, a Sufi brotherhood established in West Africa under the influence of the religious leader Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba (1853-1927). Its followers, the Baye Fall, are characterised by the rejection of certain dominant cultural practices of traditional Islam, such as the Ramadan fast or the five daily prayers.
Having taken a vow of poverty, the Baye Fall advocate deprivation that is generally reflected in their attire. They wear a belt – a reminder of their vow – tight around their waist, which takes away their appetite; patched up clothing; dreadlocks: visual elements that portray their identity.
Their bare external appearance is an essential condition towards their inner quest and is, paradoxically, an object of pride. This explains their transgressive view of imposed norms, whether they be religious or social.
One of their most important practices is zikroulah, in which they perform incantations and prayers by singing in a circumambulation (kourel) that can last for hours.
On the occasion of Sufi Night, Ömer Tuğrul Inançer, a renowned specialist in Turkish classical music, and his Istanbul Turkish Historical Music Ensemble will introduce you to the dawrān ceremony. We will also welcome musician Jupiter Diop Baye Fall accompanied by a kourel of Baye Fall performing their famous incantatory practice. Finally, Sheikh Papa Djimbira Sow will sing the khasidas (prayers to the Prophet) of the Qadiriyya brotherhood of Senegal.