Music Review: Ancient Sufi Invocations & Forgotten Songs from Aleppo

Spirituality & Health Magazine
reviewed by John Malkin

Ancient Sufi Invocations & Forgotten Songs from Aleppo
Electric Cowbell Records

Just as Amazon rainforests, North Pole icebergs, and Ganges River dolphins have become endangered, sacred musical artifacts can also disappear. And the loss can be monumental. Ancient Sufi Invocations and Forgotten Songs from Aleppo is the first in a series of albums that presents some of the Middle East’s oldest sacred music, recorded in Syria just before the country’s collapse into war and mass exodus.

Jason Hamacher was approved in 2005 to record the music of the Syrian Orthodox Church, including some of the world’s oldest Christian chants. Six years and several trips to Syria later, Hamacher had recorded the prayers, rituals, and music of several faith traditions. 

Ancient Sufi Invocations and Forgotten Songs from Aleppo features sacred chanting from the Sufi, Armenian, Syriac, and Assyrian traditions and was recorded in the courtyard of a 500-year-old house in the 8,000-year-old city of Aleppo. The songs are haunting and powerful, with rich voices that carry forward a deep, mystical tradition. 

The Sufi pieces were performed by Nawa, a modern Syrian group of nine vocalists—Mouhammed Ammo, Fawaz Baker, Khaled Al Hafez, Mouhammed Hloubi, Ibrahim Jaber, Ibrahim Muslimani, Bashar Al Sayed, Tarek Al Sayed Yeyha—all of whom fled as the country erupted into war, relocating across Europe and the Middle East. Three types of song are presented; devotional Sufi rhythmic/trance music (Dhikr or Zikr), improvisational Arabic music (Maqam), and secular poetry-based music (Mowashah). 

If that’s not enough, get this: the musician who helped save this ancient Sufi music from extinction—Jason Hamacher—is former drummer for a bunch of punk bands including Frodus, Battery, and Combatwoundedveteran. Which reminds me; everything is sacred.

This entry is tagged with:
Middle EastMusicHistory

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