Oruj Guvenc

Ocean of Remembrance: Sufi Improvisations and Zhikrs (Interworld)

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This splendid album is both devotional and therapeutic. Oruj Guvenc is not only a shaikh (master) in several Sufi orders and a virtuoso on three great Middle Eastern instruments -- the ney (Persian flute), oud (lute), and rebab (three-stringed violin) -- he's also a psychologist who heads the department of clinical music therapy at Cerrahpasa Medical University in Istanbul, Turkey. For years he's used the music of Islamic mysticism to help heal mental illness, and that probably accounts for the gentleness and intimacy of these chants and songs that repeat the name of Allah and praise him. While the chanting at official Sufi ceremonies like the famous 'Whirling Dervish' dancing at Konya, Turkey (captured on the excellent album Music of the Whirling Dervishes, Atlantic, among others) is full-throated and robust, full of cosmic mystery, Guvenc and company's renditions emphasize the sweetness and comfort of the encounter with God. Sometimes Guvenc's ney floats over the singing, evoking the tradition of the great 13th-century Sufi saint Jalal-ud-Din Rumi, who likened the flute's throaty voice to the breath of life itself. If the best 'New Age' music seeks to transcend entertainment in order to have a deeper effect on the body and mind, then this is superb New Age music from the Islamic Middle Ages.

Listen In: Sample 1, Track 1, 'Bismillah ar-Rahman' (164K .au format)
Sample 2, Track 4, 'Allah, Allah, Allah' (141K .au format)