Whirling Dervishes Meet Electronic Music

One of the tourist attractions in Turkey is attending a Whirling Dervish performance. The whirling itself is a religious act meant to draw one closer to God, but as it is unique to the region, visitors flock to see the dervishes in action. I attended a show with some friends visiting last year and didn’t personally find it that captivating. It is remarkable that a person can spin for forty-five minutes without falling over. The symbolism behind their movements and the ease with which the dervishes extend and retract their arms is beautiful. After a while, though, I’d had enough. I didn’t feel any burning desire to see it again. The music didn’t build enough and the movement didn’t develop enough to maintain my interest.

Someday, I’d like to go to a real Sufi service… Do they call them services? I’d like to see the dervishes and hear the music as it is intended rather than for tourists. It may be completely different.

On Tuesday, 20 September 2016, I went to see the Mercan Dede Secret Tribe perform as part of the Istanbul Clarinet Festival. They also featured singer Zara and trumpeter Dzambo Agusev. I didn’t know of any of these musicians prior to the concert, but I’m so glad I went to see them this week. The combination of electronics, traditional Turkish and western instruments was a breath of fresh air.

As always, I have my complaints about every instrument being amplified, but when you’re dealing with electronic elements, I suppose that’s necessary to an extent. I just prefer for the performers to sound live, as they are. When everything is amped, I often feel like I’m listening to a recording.

Anyway, as part of the concert, one piece featured two dervishes in traditional white. For their encore, one dervish came out again and performed in black and the skirt had sequins reflecting like a disco ball. With their instrumentation, electronics and the lighting,  I suddenly found myself entranced. Completely mesmerized.

Here is a compilation of the two performances that include the dervishes. I only had my phone with me, so the quality is low, but I hope you’ll get a sense for how different and exciting it was to be in that audience.

What’s your impression of the Whirling Dervishes?

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