Sufi music from Egypt, and music from Chile and Croatia

By Elizabeth Doyle

Another Sufi dancer in Cairo

Mohamed el-Sayed – Music has been a part of Egypt for about as long as there’s been an Egypt – and probably even before that!  Instruments have been found in Egypt that are older than the pharaohs. (Interestingly, flutes and lyres seem to have been there long before drums.) Of course, new elements have been added over the centuries. In particular, there’s been a strong Arabic influence by now.  Some folks are actually working fulltime to try to recreate ancient Egyptian instruments and revive what music must have sounded like back in the days of the Pyramids and before. They’re really making progress! But in the meantime, most folks seem to agree that the oldest living Egyptian music that you can still see today is the traditional folk music including the Sufi Dhikr.  So here is a little bit of that, as performed by Mohamed el-Sayed.  He was born in Cairo, later studied in Spain, and then back to Egypt again. (In addition to playing percussion instruments, he does many “whirling dervish” dances.) But that’s about all I know about him! Not much. If someone else knows more about this very interesting performer, I would welcome comments! Click here.

Victor Jara

Victor Jara – His is a hard story, but I think it’s important to remember his music.  Victor was a Chilean guitar player and singer – as gentle a soul as you can imagine.  He also directed plays, and did a lot to develop Chilean theater. He was born into a very poor family, and had to work in the fields just as soon as he was big enough to be able.  But when his father left the family, his mother decided that education was really better for the children than working, and Victor began his studies, including music. He studied to work as an accountant, then he joined the army for a while, and then he became a guitar player. He was a political activist as well, and often sang about better conditions for people who work.  Because of the political nature of some of his songs, in 1973, he was arrested …. and what was done to him, I won’t describe.  But his gentleness as an artist contrasted with the manner of his death became a symbol and rallying point against human rights abuse throughout the South American countries. And he probably would be glad to know that:  Click here.

The old walls of Dubrovnik

Tamara Obrovac – What do they listen to in the Balkans?  This!  Tamara Obrovac is a Croatian, and a very popular singer in the Balkans right now.  She’s fun!  Quirky, cute, and outrageously creative.  But she’s much more interesting than that, because she writes her music and sings in something called the Istriotic dialect, which is an ancient language, no longer spoken anywhere in the world.  Her music is not ancient. It’s a sort of upbeat jazz infusion that’s very modern. But she does it all in this old Croatian dialect, which may be the only thing that’s going to keep it alive. She’s still working on becoming known outside of the Balkan region; that’s where most of her success has been.  But she was nominated for some BBC radio awards, and that’s a step!  Click here.

Top photo: Attila Jandi / / A Sufi dancer in Cairo, not Mohamed el-Sayed

Second photo: Wikimedia Commons / public domain / Victor Jara

Third photo: Roman Bonnefoy (Romanceor) / Wikimedia / GNU Free Documentation License /Walls of Dubrovnik, with the Minčeta Tower

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