Monday, February 5, 2018

a challenge for inter-faith music celebrations...

One of the challenges that inhibits hosting an inter-faith festival of music that celebrates the popular and liturgical music from the Abrahamic traditions is the very different contexts of Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayer.  All three utilize private prayers, of course, but Judaism and Christianity have also cultivated a corporate culture of sacred music that has no comparable expression in Islam. This is not to say that the sacred chants of the Muslim world have not been woven into other music. Clearly they have. Further, a growing awareness of the West African Muslim cultures that were forcibly carried to the shores of North America by slaves suggests fascinating influences re: the birth of the blues. (see "The Muslim Roots of the Blues" in the SF Chronicle @
opinion/article/Muslim-roots-of-the-blues-The-music-of-famous-2701489.php) But given the different ways Jews, Christians and Muslims pray when gathered, has anyone yet found anything like "Missa Gaia" in Islam? Or a contemporary musical settings of the Qu'ran? Or even informal songs of praise that have found a place in public worship beyond the proscribed Arabic? To date, I have not.

Clearly one avenue for exploration would be the multi-ethnic variety of Islam. "The classic heartland of Islam is the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Iran, Central Asia and South Asia, and it also included the medieval Iberian peninsula (al-Andalus). Due to Islam being a multi-ethnic religion, the musical expression of its adherents is vastly diverse. Indigenous traditions of various part have influenced the musical styles popular among Muslims today (Wikipedia @ The general insight offered in this article notes that beyond the ethnic and cultural variances in sung Islamic music, there are also profound differences between Shia, Sunni and Sufi adherents - and between fundamentalist and moderate practitioners in each of these groups, too. Further, three essential academic works are cited that demand my careful review:

1) Jenkins, Jean and Olsen, Poul Rovsing (1976). Music and Musical Instruments in the World of Islam. World of Islam Festival. ISBN 0-905035-11-9.

2) Habib Hassan Touma (1996). The Music of the Arabs, trans. Laurie Schwartz. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0-931340-88-8.

3) Shiloah, Amnon (1995). "Music in the World of Islam: A Socio-cultural study." Wayne State University Press. Detroit. ISBN 0-8143-2589-0

After we return from our L'Arche visit to Ottawa later this month, I can see some new heavy study in store for me.

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thanks be to god...

The past four weeks have been full to overflowing: time in Ottawa with our dear L'Arche community, walking in the snow on the Winter Sol...