Mine is a story that spans centuries. My place is the Placeless, my track is like that of a bird across the endless sky. I am the music that echoes from the unseen world. At the dawn of Islam, the rich poetry that marked the Arabian heartland mingled with the melodies of the oud, the rhythms of the duff, and the art of the human voice. I carried these outward, journeying along with the message of the new revelation. That message travelled west, and I travelled, too. In each new landscape people added their voices, their words, their instruments – to my song. Across the lands of North Africa, all the way to Andalusia, my song was heard. It carried the ethos, the spirit, of Islam. I was welcomed. My sound awakened something deep within the soul, a memory beyond words. For the wise ones have said: “These melodies are the sounds of the revolving spheres of heaven. We were all part of Adam, we heard these melodies in Paradise. Water and clay may have clouded our sight, but an echo of their sound lingers in our memory.” In Moorish Spain’s Golden Age, I was reborn as the music of Andalusia. So powerful was my grip on the imagination, that even today this music awakens the noblest aspirations in its listeners. And when the Moors left the Iberian Peninsula, my voice was not silenced. My echo is heard across Europe and beyond, in the song of the troubadour, and in the sounds of the instruments I brought with me: the lute, the guitar, and the violin Now my Andalusian music flourishes in the Maghreb, where I live on in sacred ceremonies and songs “Music will show you the path beyond Heaven. Immerse yourself in its sound, and the veils that hide your Light will fall in a heap on the floor. And from those early days of Islam in Arabia’s heartland, I also travelled north and east. In Turkey, the ney, the reed flute, added its achingly sweet sound of Divine longing to my song. “Listen to the lament of the reed, telling its tale of longing, Ever since it was cut from its reed-bed,
All who hear it weep at its sorrow. I moved on to Persia. I was welcomed in that land, where poets and musicians of exquisite skill joined me in their quest to touch the Divine. I was recognized. I was loved. One poet said: “In music there are a hundred thousand joys, and any one of these will shorten by a thousand years the path to attain knowledge of the Divine mysteries.” While I travelled and grew, the greatest Muslim thinkers – Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi Ibn Sina – wrote of my qualities for healing body and soul. And they gave me a structure that would always define my homeland as the heart of Islam. No matter what embellishment each people add to me, still my essence shines through. My home is everywhere, but my heart is one. I journeyed farther east, with the trade caravans and the mystics, until my song reached the great Indian subcontinent. Harmoniums and rababs and tablas joined singers in ecstatic praise of the Divine. The qawwali was born. And now as I continue to travel across time and lands and waters, I grow and change and still my essence remains the same. When the sound of my song is heard, revealing that truth and beauty that lie beyond words, you will always know me.