Sufi Music WorkshopPhoto by Emily Heagle

"These songs are poems, the bulk of them are from the 1600-1700 time period. They were a central part of Islamic piety in the Turkish context, and immensely popular in both the urban and the rural context. It was after Ataturk's forced secularization that they disappeared from the public sphere in Turkey, and went underground. People like Oruç Guvenç are central in recovering them not only as pieces of literature, but also as lived, practiced, embodied traditions." ~Omid Safi

At the end of a long day of production in Istanbul, our guide Omid Safi, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (he specializes in Islamic mysticism and contemporary Islamic thought) led us off the beaten path. Barely a block from the tourist-filled Hippodrome and Hagia Sofia is the studio of Oreç Guvenç.

Oreç Guvenç's StudioFour floors up a spiral staircase, and beyond a pile of shoes respectfully left at the door, is a modest room lit with florescent tubes.

The walls are lined with traditional stringed instruments and drums, most of which look handmade. One open window to the street below unsuccessfully attempts to offset the heat generated by the 20 people who gathered to play and sing.

We are welcomed, as usual, with hot tea and treated to a remarkable evening. For nearly 30 years, the ethnomusicologist has been a leader in preserving and advancing traditional Sufi music, focusing especially on music as a tool for healing. This is what we heard at this evening's monthly workshop:

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Sound of bliss reTurning...

Sounds are the way to reach the God I must admire all kind of sounds.It has been outrageous experiences and make me feel happy.

Very good blog about sufi music.

I like sufi music. It is awesome experience and make me always happy.

Sufi music is something heavenly. I never have felt more peace than listening to Sufi songs. I even wonder at times whether it is actually the music gods used to listen. Its so light and soothing to ears and mind.

The music and whirling during this ceremony is such a wonderful experience. I really valued how professional and sincere the performers of the ceremony were. It is quiet, simplicity and decorum of an ancient Sufi ceremony. Clearly this is not for everyone, as 90 minutes with traditional musicians and dancers following a strict and prayerful ceremony, this can be a long time for a child or for someone not appreciative of the Sufi majesty of music and whirling. Several tourists were talking and laughing and roaming around taking photos, which I thought was obnoxious behavior and very inappropriate. Sitting in the audience and snapping photos and quiet periodic applause was appropriate. This is much recommended for someone wanting with an artistic and religious experience. For more visit Istanbul tourist attractions.