10. 08. 2021


The International Multidisciplinary Symposium Music – Religion – Spirituality took place online between 26th and 28th of August 2021. The symposium represents a continuation of the long-term cooperation of the Imago Sloveniae Foundation with the Department of Musicology of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, the Institute of Ethnomusicology ZRC SAZU, KED Folk Slovenia and the world’s leading association of ethnomusicologists and ethnochoreologists ICTM. It was attended by 25 experts from various fields of culture and science from 13 countries.

Recordings of the symposium are available via the links below:

Introductory Thoughts at the Symposium Music – Religion – Spirituality

Religious and spiritual doctrines and their interpretations have a significant impact on understandings of boundaries between musical and non-musical phenomena, and between acceptable and unacceptable music (sound) and dance (movement) practices in various spatial and temporal contexts. Religion and spirituality affect and reflect traditional, art, and popular music and dance domains. They are expressed under precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial circumstances, and in environments hostile to any or to at least different (minority) religious worldviews. Their role on a war-peace continuum sometimes results in migrations, refugee, and immigrant experiences. They are key components of ritualistic practices essential for identity maintenance, but also for new ecumenic syncretisms.

In March 2020, the Executive Board of the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) endorsed the proposal of an international group of scholars for the establishment of a new Study Group with a focus on music, religion, and spirituality. The symposium in Ljubljana is the major required step in this direction. Recognized as an important focus, not explicitly present in the activities of any of the existing ICTM Study Groups, it is expected to be approached in an open, inclusive, and non-biased manner. Selected articles, based on the symposium presentations, will be published in the thematic issue of the peer-reviewed journal Musicological Annual.

Svanibor Pettan  

THURSDAY, 26. 8. 2021


Svanibor Pettan: Music – Religion – Spirituality: An Introduction

SESSION 1Diverse Aspects
Chair: Jean Ngoya Kidula

Brita Heimarck: Music as a Spiritual Tool and Religious Ritual Accompaniment
Jeffrey A. Summit: Reimagining Spiritual Experience and Music: Perspectives from Jewish Worship in the United States
Antti-Ville Kärjä: Music, Heritagisation, and Belief Systems


SESSION2Music, Religion, and Spirituality Today
Chair: Daniel Kodzo Avorgbedor

Mojca Kovačič: Urban Religious Soundscapes and Identity Politics: The Case of Ljubljana
Fulvia Caruso: Media Replacements for Rites Suspended by the Pandemic: Notes from a Virtual Ethnography


SESSION 3: Glagolitic Singing
Chair: Marcia Ostashewski

Jakša Primorac: A Controversy of Glagolitic Singing
Joško Ćaleta: Public Performance Models as Identity Maintenance Markers of Glagolitic (Traditional Church) Singing of Croatia

FRIDAY, 27. 8. 2021

SESSION 4: African Perspectives
Chair: Jeffrey A. Summit

Daniel Kodzo Avorgbedor: Ruptures, Junctures, and Difference: The Place of Music and Dance in Framing “Tradition” in a Plural Religious-Ritual Setting
Jean Ngoya Kidula: Interrogating the Word and its Application through Musical Arts: Passages in African Christianity
Brian Schrag: Ethnodoxology: History, Nature, and Opportunities for Dialogue


SESSION 5: Migrations Past and Present
Chair: Fulvia Caruso

Hilde Binford: The importance of 16th-Century Radical Reformation Hymns for Today’s Old Order Amish and Hutterites
Raiza Sultanova:“No home, no flag, mom!” Music and Religious Practices of Post-Soviet Migration
Maša K. Marty: Liturgical Singing of the Slovenian Catholic Community in Switzerland and in the Principality of Liechtenstein


SESSION 6: Diaspora
Chair: Razia Sultanova

Marcia Ostashewski:Singing Samoyilka: Byzantine Ukrainian Liturgical Music in Canada
Thea Tiramani:“I need to compose my own shabad to represent myself.” Tradition, Creativity, and Reception of New Musical Productions in Italian Sikh Communities

SATURDAY, 28. 8. 2021

SESSION 7: South Asian and South American Contexts
Chair: Brita Heimarck

Lasanthi Manaranjanie Kalinga Dona: Pirit Chant – A Buddhist Sound Protection in Sri Lanka
Rohini Menon: Performing Emotion and Caste: Situating Koṭuṅṅallūr Bharaṇi in South Asian Textual Performances and Literary History
Pablo Rojas Sahurie: The Chilean New Song and the Construction of The Kingdom of God in The Popular Unity


SESSION 8: Sufism
Chair: Irene Markoff

Michael Frishkopf: The Sufi Sources of Tarab
Ihsan Ul Ihthisam Chappangan: Language Performances and Connected Literary Sensibilities: Circulation of Sufi Texts and Sounds across the Indian Ocean


SESSION 9: Alevism
Chair: Michael Frishkopf

Maja Bjelica: Music of the Turkish Alevis: Spirituality, Community and Representation
Rumiana Margaritova: Accessing the Secret Sounds and Movements: Representations of Alevi and Bektashi Ritual Music and Kinetic Forms from Bulgaria

Final discussion on the creation of a new ICTM Study Group and publication


SESSION 1: Diverse Aspects
Chair: Jean Ngoya Kidula

Brita Heimarck
Boston University (USA):

Music as a Spiritual Tool and Religious Ritual Accompaniment

In this presentation I discuss the concept of music as a “tool” in religious or spiritual contexts. For those on a spiritual path, music can function as a “spiritual tool,” a religious tool, a ceremonial tool, a ritual tool, or a tool of emancipation, transformation, or consciousness-raising. I investigate several examples of music’s powerful role within specific religious or spiritual contexts drawn from diverse Hindu traditions and yogic practices. I refer to the musical ceremony that embodies devotion known as arati, and music that accompanies rites of passage in Bali, Indonesia, including the gender wayang accompaniment to tooth-filing ceremonies, weddings, and cremation ceremonies. Music in the context of meditation, or group chanting in the context of satsang complete this exploration of music as a religious, ceremonial, and spiritual tool embodying inner and outer devotion, transition, and transformation.


Jeffrey A. Summit
Tufts University (USA):

Reimagining Spiritual Experience and Music: Perspectives from Jewish Worship in the United States

Leaning on Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook’s poem of the “fourfold song” as a typology of categories, this paper examines music and spiritual experience in (liberal) Jewish worship in the United States in the twenty-first century. Kook’s four categories—the song of the self, the song of one’s people, the song of humanity, and the song of all existence—provide a structure to consider a developing focus on spirituality in Jewish congregational prayer and song. Ethnographic interviews with prayer leaders who have built reputations for constructing worship services where music is a core component of spiritual expression provide insight into the evolving conceptions of music and worship. These suggest a reconceptualization, moving from “religious experience” to what Anne Taves has termed “experiences deemed religious.” This, in turn, provides an organizational framework for emerging trends in spiritual expression and as such, has relevance to the broader study of the meaning and power of congregational music in religious life.


Antti-Ville Kärjä
University of the Arts Helsinki (Finland):

Music, Heritagisation, and Belief Systems

Music heritagisation proliferates, as indicated by the UNESCO lists of intangible cultural heritage in particular. At issue are often indigenous cultural practices with their associated cosmologies, or other musical phenomena that are inextricable from distinct belief systems. By investigating the UNESCO lists both quantitatively and qualitatively, it is my aim to chart out how different religious denominations and other forms of spirituality are implicated in heritagising music, and vice versa. In the current times of re-enchantment, post-secularisation and alternative spiritualities, how does music heritagisation interrelate with the religious sphere, and to what extent does music heritage constitute a belief system of its own? Moreover, given the importance of ICH for the tourism industry, how do the religious and other beliefs become entangled with global capitalism (in its local forms)?

SESSION2: Music, religion, and spirituality Today
Chair: Daniel Kodzo Avorgbedor

Mojca Kovačič
ZRC SAZU, Institute of Ethnomusicology (Slovenia):

Urban Religious Soundscapes and Identity Politics: The Case of Ljubljana

The simultaneous presence of different cultures and religions in a shared environment often involves specific religious sounds which affirm the presence of diversity and also claims for domination of the most prominent one. The city of Ljubljana and Slovenia as a whole, where Roman Catholicism for centuries dominated the religious scene, experienced the first religious sonic challenges from the recently opened Ljubljana mosque and from a spiritual community known as the Trans-Universal Zombie Church of Blissful Ringing. In the case of the first-ever mosque built in Ljubljana, the question of the call for prayer (adhan) was raised, while in the case of the officially registered Zombie Church, the sonic symbolism of the dominant religion was questioned. Religious sounds have become an instrument of identity politics, which can be observed in the political media discourse as well as in the general everyday communications of urban residents. In this paper, I observe how religious soundscapes in Ljubljana, such as the bell ringing, bell chiming, and adhan relate to elements of tradition, monoculturalism, multiculturalism, monoreligiosity, atheism, nationality, citizenship, and (post-)secularism in the discourse of identity politics.


Fulvia Caruso
University of Pavia (Italy):

Media Replacements for Rites Suspended by the Pandemic: Notes from a Virtual Ethnography

During the Covid lockdown in 2020 and in 2021, important Catholic calendric rites were inevitably suspended. In some cases, however, cultural associations, brotherhoods, companies of pilgrims, and individuals began using the Internet to fill the void created by the absence of live rituals. In March 2020, I began to observe, collect, and analyze social media posts, especially those on Facebook, that reflected the changing realities. Analysis of the posts reveals virtualization of the rites using previous recordings, the creation of ad hoc recordings, and in some cases live coverage of small events. The web, already used as a tool to raise awareness of specific local traditions, has become during the Covid lockdown a place of reference for people familiar with the traditions, searching for other ways to experience them. The study of the virtualization of the rites illustrates which aspects of the rite could not be eliminated and had to be enacted even if in a new form. The focus of my presentation is on the rites and particularly on the musical elements associated with the pilgrimage to the shrine of the Holy Trinity in Vallepietra, aiming to reveal the impact of a virtual experience on personal devotional expression.


SESSION 3: Glagolitic Singing
Chair: Marcia Ostashewski

Jakša Primorac
Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (Croatia):

A Controversy of Glagolitic Singing

Traditional church singing in southern parts of Croatia is the only Roman Catholic liturgical singing which was allowed to be performed in a non-Latin language for centuries; that is, it was performed in Old Church Slavonic or in the Croatian language. Its musical features are also exceptional, for it was permitted that folk choirs perform liturgical singing in various local styles. Today this singing is disappearing in live performance practice. Yet, one important problem relates to the lack of an adequate term for this phenomenon. The term “Glagolitic singing” was coined by ethnomusicologists in the 1950s and has been used in research ever since. However, folk performers call their chant simply “folk church singing.” Unfortunately, neither of these terms is acceptable for both, researchers and singers. The paper provides an analysis of this discordance.


Joško Ćaleta
Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Zagreb (Croatia):

Public Performance Models as Identity Maintenance Markers of Glagolitic (Traditional Church) Singing of Croatia

The term Glagolitic singing in this paper encompasses traditional Roman Catholic liturgical, paraliturgical, and other sacred vocal genres of the Croatian Adriatic region. Glagolitic singing emerged from benefits bestowed to Croatian dioceses by the Holy See in the early Middle Ages which granted priests, the so-called “glagoljaši“, the ability to use their own (Glagolitic) script and a vernacular language that could be easily understood by the common people for use in the Roman Catholic liturgy. In the last thirty years, there have been attempts to reacquaint the general public with this traditional archaic musical “ecosystem” through the processes of revitalization, reconstruction, and the availability of more public performances. Despite the marginality of this musical phenomenon, I argue that the popularity of traditional sacred musical repertoire today is largely dependent on the nature of its modes of public performance. This will ensure the further survival of such forms of traditional musical expression in the context of a new musical order dominated by new global musical idioms.

SESSION 4: African Perspectives
Chair: Jeffrey A. Summit

Daniel Kodzo Avorgbedor
University of Ghana (Ghana):

Ruptures, Junctures, and Difference: The Place of Music and Dance in Framing “Tradition” in a Plural Religious-Ritual Setting

This paper draws on recent field data of indigenous chieftaincy and royal stool ceremonies in Ghana which encouraged interfaith and intergeneric musical and dance performances as central features of the event. In Ghana, the site and dynamics of chieftaincy and its associated customs, rituals, functions and public expectations clearly situate it at a critical juncture and intersection of “tradition” and Charismatic Christianity. These intersections are often accompanied by moments of significant ruptures which nevertheless encourage music and dance experimentation-innovation across sacred-secular boundaries. Music and dance remain integral and powerful symbolic forms not only in the constitution but also on the ontological definition and meaningful exploration of the sacred and the secular, especially in everyday enactments of spirituality where boundaries of sacred and secular are often blurred. The paper further argues that the junctures and intersections of “tradition” and contemporary Christianity can frustrate normative analytical perspectives on the sacred and secular dualities, and that indigenous ritual systems also transcend sacred-secular-profane trichotomies, especially when the secular and the profane are often indispensable in “encountering” the sacred. The analysis illuminates and updates current postcolonial discourses of syncretism and hybridity and in relation to politics of identity, belonging and the affective, transformative functions of music and dance.


Jean Ngoya Kidula
University of Georgia, Atlanta (USA):

Interrogating the Word and its Application through Musical Arts: Passages in African Christianity

I begin on the premise that Christianity in its spiritual and religious capacity, in its European and North American cultural adornment, material accouterments, as well as in its political, social, and economic packaging, has fundamentally defined the identity of modern Africa and its citizens on the continent and in the diaspora. Attempts have been made to understand, critique, and repackage this Christianity for African survival, belonging, and fundamental right.  Music has been an enduring expression and archive of this Christianity.

I discuss how “El-Shaddai” (2019) by H_art the band, a religious song that is visually and theatrically interpreted by its performers in ways that interrogate interpretations of scriptures, critiques ‘Christian’ understandings in the contemporary Kenyan urban scene. I contend that such critiques are not new, rather they are ignored, minimized, and even demonized in their labor regarding how Christianity is worked out in varying cultural, locational, political, and generational spaces.


Brian Schrag
Dallas International University (USA):

Ethnodoxology: History, Nature, and Opportunities for Dialogue

Many ecclesial and eschatological theologies informing 19th-21st Century Protestant missions lacked robust treatments of artistry. Colonialist ideologies often filled this conceptual void, resulting in new Christian churches reflecting the artistic practices of missionaries’ traditions at the expense of local arts. Ethnodoxology emerged in the late 20th and early 21st centuries as a reaction against these practices, rediscovering and further developing practical theologies of artistry in numerous Christian arenas.

In this presentation, I describe ethnodoxology’s birth as a network of disaffected individuals, coalescence into a multidisciplinary field, and impact on local churches and theological institutions. As an active participant in internal dialogues from its beginning, I examine ethnodoxology’s evolution and current manifestations, showing a video demonstrating the application of a core methodology with a community in the Democratic Republic of Congo (vimeo.com/552575710). Finally, I explore ethnodoxology’s potential and limits as a space for scholarly conversations integrating spiritual and ethnoartistic concerns.


SESSION 5: Migrations Past and Present
Chair: Fulvia Caruso

Hilde Binford
Moravian College, Bethlehem (USA):

The importance of 16th-Century Radical Reformation Hymns for Today’s Old Order Amish and Hutterites

In the 16th century, during the Radical Reformation, the Anabaptists in Europe were persecuted and martyred.  Their hymns, sung to common tunes of the time, relayed the stories of the martyrs, portrayed the condition of the prisoners, and acclaimed their faith in God.  Eventually, the Anabaptists followed different leaders, including Jakob Ammann, Menno Simons, and Jakob Hutter, becoming the Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites. United with their pacifist beliefs and desire to remain in control of their own education, the groups migrated. To escape persecution, many emigrated to the American colonies, while others lived in Russia before ending up in Canada and Mexico. These groups still, to varying degrees, live “apart,” maintaining their hymn traditions in an oral tradition, dating back to the 16th century.  This paper provides an overview of the hymns of the Old Order Amish and Hutterites.


Razia Sultanova
University of Cambridge (United Kingdom):

“No home, no flag, mom!” Music and Religious Practices of Post-Soviet Migration

The large migrant labor workforce from Central Asia and the Caucasus brought to Russia new sounds and new images of Muslim culture. Islam with daily appearances of religious genres, particularly at times of religious holidays, is featured in ritualistic forms of religious practices. New sounds, including the call for prayer and communal prayer, produce a new outlook particularly on the day of a Muslim congregational Friday prayer (ṣalāt) or at the Islamic holidays such as Ramadan. Popular culture has fused and manifested itself through new bands and groups, whose sound is widely spread through Central Asian and Caucasian cafés and restaurants. This paper investigates the influence of the new migrant labor on Russian music culture and questions the religious and entertaining style of the contemporary music scene in Russian cities.


Maša K. Marty
Independent research scholar, Bern (Switzerland):

Liturgical Singing of the Slovenian Catholic Community in Switzerland and in the Principality of Liechtenstein

At the end of the 1960s, due to the considerable economic migration of Slovenes to Switzerland and to the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Slovenian Catholic Mission was founded and began to take care of the religious life of the emigrants in their new surroundings. The activity of the mission, which has provided a constant and continuous presence ever since, continues to play an important role in shaping the social life of the Slovenian Catholic community in these countries. Regular meetings contribute to the connections among the members of the community and to the maintenance of the Slovenian ethnic and religious identity. Within the religious rites, music is used as a tool to create a Christian musical space for the continuation and renewal of the ethnic local culture, through which parishioners connect with the culture and tradition of the place of origin. Liturgical singing, based on a standard repertoire determined by the liturgical year, communicates to the congregation a set of messages encoded in sound, text, and musical genre. The paper provides the results of a multi-layered analysis of this musical practice.


SESSION 6: Diaspora
Chair: Razia Sultanova

Marcia Ostashewski
Cape Breton University (Canada):

Singing Samoyilka: Byzantine Ukrainian Liturgical Music in Canada

Since the late 1800s when Ukrainians began immigrating to Canada, their religious practices have undergone a transformation as churches have incorporated local musics and languages and felt regional, national and transnational political pressures. Several aspects of this music have been transformed since the beginning of Ukrainian immigration to Canada, including language and musical content, as well as the gender of cantors. Factors that have influenced change include migration patterns; urbanization; an interplay between transnational religious institutions, governments, and local parishes; directives from Church hierarchy; Canadian politics such as multiculturalism; and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on auto-ethnographic data of a practicing cantor as well as interviews with several other cantors, clergy, and community practitioners – this presentation addresses ways in which Ukrainian Byzantine congregational music in North America enables practitioners to experience singing the music and to create meaning through the practice; it also reveals the cultural work that this music performs.


Thea Tiramani
University of Pavia (Italy):

“I need to compose my own shabad to represent myself.” Tradition, Creativity, and Reception of New Musical Productions in Italian Sikh Communities

 Kirtan performances in the Sikh temples known as Gurdwaras involve the musical realization of hymns (shabad) contained in the Sacred Book. This is the most relevant moment of the religious rite because the words of the Sacred Book come to life in music. Today, music for the hymns, both in the motherland and in the diaspora, encompasses various genres. This happens because kirtaniya are continuously looking for music that can efficaciously move the faithful spirituality. Young musicians experiment with new forms of expressions, also outside Gurdwara religious life, and share the results through social media. My fieldwork involved research with Sikh musicians who were born in India and moved to Italy at a young age. These individuals have created hymns that combine elements of tradition with new musical trends, yet maintain an acceptable and specific idea of spirituality. In this presentation, my analysis of such innovative developments features a video clip of Aninder Singh and Gurwinder Singh.

SESSION 7: South Asian and South American Contexts
Chair: Brita Heimarck

Lasanthi Manaranjanie Kalinga Dona
University of Kelaniya (Sri Lanka):

Pirit Chant – A Buddhist Sound Protection in Sri Lanka

Pirit, a practice of chanting particular verses and scriptures with the aim of protecting people from dangers and misfortunes, has received rather limited ethnomusicological attention in Sri Lanka (Piyadassi 1975, Kulatillake 1982, Perera 2000, Kalinga Dona 2010). The chanting is performed exclusively by Theravada Buddhist monks who do it in groups or individually, depending on the circumstances. Pirit can be performed at live events, through loudspeakers, on radio and television, and in the form of audio or audiovisual recordings. Strictly speaking, pirit is not considered a »musical practice« by its carriers, but since its performance in a number of situations used to be preceeded by instrumental music, the paper examines the relationship between the vocal chanting and the instrumental component. Based on archival and ethnographic research, the analysis focuses on the dynamics between tradition and modernity and on the cases of experimental applications of pirit for therapeutic purposes in places such as hospitals.


Rohini Menon
Independent research scholar, New Delhi (India):

Performing Emotion and Caste: Situating Koṭuṅṅallūr Bharaṇi in South Asian Textual Performances and Literary History

South Asian religious traditions have a long history of cultural and social implications. Centering on a case study on the Koṭuṅṅallūr Bharaṇi (Ritual and Performance) of the Hindu-lower caste community performers, this presentation brings historical and contemporary literary history into focus around the nexus of emotions and performances. The performance of caste in South Asia is chiefly associated with the cultural and spiritual rituals that are entangled in day-to-day experiences, yet there are several art forms and performances which are unknown to the outer world, closely associated with the indigenous, tribal, and caste identities. Inspired by Margrit Pernau’s work Emotional Translations: Conceptual History beyond Language, emotional translation can be better explained as a form of translation happening between reality and interpretation which is mediated by the senses and the body (Pernau, p. 46). Although performances have been studied under the framework of gender, religion, politics, and history in the context of South Asia, there have been very few works on Caste and Performance, taking the wider network of translocal Hindu religious festivals celebrated across South Asia, especially by communities belonging to the lower caste. This paper looks into the intersection of caste and performance in the South Asian literary and historical world, by focusing on the idea of emotion and emotional translation.


Pablo Rojas Sahurie
University of Vienna (Austria):

The Chilean New Song and the Construction of The Kingdom of God in The Popular Unity

The Chilean New Song is a musical movement that has not only been historically linked to the political left, but has also presented important religious elements in both its sounds and its concepts (Rojas 2020). These religious aspects, assimilated by an important part of the members of the movement from Chilean popular religion can be understood in terms of religious atheism, which allows us to account for the paradoxical figure in which the sacred and the profane find a point of convergence (Löwy 2015). In this way, the religious dimension remained present at the very heart of the Chilean New Song and was explicitly inserted into the revolutionary discourse of the movement. Within this context, one of the most interesting aspects is that the Chilean New Song imagined the political project of the Popular Unity, of which it became a part, as the realization of the kingdom of God. Thus, this presentation shows how the Chilean New Song developed the idea of the kingdom and matched the utopia of a classless society with the idea of the kingdom of God on earth.

SESSION 8: Sufism
Chair: Irene Markoff

Michael Frishkopf
University of Alberta (Canada):

The Sufi Sources of Tarab

Tarab finds no ready translation from the Arabic. Narrowly defined, tarab refers both to musical ecstasy and to the traditional musical-poetic-social resources for producing it, including harmonious relations between singer, poetry, and listeners. Tarab depends on consonant performative interactions, in which experienced listeners express emotion through vocal exclamations and gestures; the performer, in turn, is both moved and guided by such feedback, such that emotion is shared, exchanged, and amplified among participants. Tarab represented Arab music’s highest aesthetic ideal up until the mid-20th century, after which it began to fade. However, listeners often describe inshad (Islamic chant), as rich in tarab, especially in Sufism. Why did Sufi music remain tarab-laden, despite conservative discourses critical of music, while tarab disappeared in the secular sphere?  Exploring Sufi worldviews, concepts, socio-spiritual organization, and practices, I show how Sufism both facilitates and requires the harmonious socio-spiritual relationships upon which tarab depends.


Ihsan Ul Ihthisam Chappangan
University of Chicago (USA):

Language Performances and Connected Literary Sensibilities: Circulation of Sufi Texts and Sounds across the Indian Ocean

This research concerns the circulation of Sufi texts and sounds across the littoral worlds of the Indian Ocean. More specifically, it identifies the genre of ‘language performances’ in the Sufi Islamic ritual economy, from the early sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, among the Muslim community of the Malabar and Ma’bar/Coromandel Coast. The term ‘language performances’ takes its cue from ethnomusicologist Michael Frishkopf’s conception of ‘language performance’ as a genre and methodology (syntactic, semantic, sonic and pragmatic), which enables a systematic and comparative historical investigation of performances in Islamic ritual. Another useful concept for the analysis is cosmopolis (Pollock, Eaton, and Ricci) which defines the spatially and temporally extended, but connected, ecumene of Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian literary influences and sensibilities. The prime focus of the paper, then, will be the cult of eleventh century Persian Sufi saint Šaiḫ Muḥyuddīn ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Ǧīlāni (as spiritual savior of land and sea), along with the travelling literary texts subjecting his hagiographies. The study historicizes the transcreations of the saint’s life into cosmopolitan vernacular language performances that are connected as a cosmopolis across the Indian Ocean. The project enables a panoramic look into the socio-political atmosphere of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries’ Indian Ocean world (colonialism), which gives us the ideology to refigure the conundrum of ‘connected literary sensibilities’ in the formation of  those language performances, from a Malabari and Ma‘bari perspective, extending to the wider South and Southeast Asian circulatory regimes.

SESSION 9: Alevism
Chair: Michael Frishkopf

Maja Bjelica
Institute for Philosophical Studies, Science and Research Centre, Koper (Slovenia):

Music of the Turkish Alevis: Spirituality, Community and Representation

For the Turkish Alevis, the largest religious minority in Turkey, music plays a central role in their religious practices: it constitutes the central element of their main ritual called cem. Rituals also include sacred movement known as semah, that alongside music also provides an important space for Alevi spirituality, community encounters and identity representation. The paper will present the visual and audio material, gathered during ethnographic research conducted in Istanbul in the spring of 2015 at the Gaziosmanpaşa Hoca Ahmet Yesevi Cem Evi Inanç ve Kültür Derneği and the Esentepe Hz. Ali Cem Evi Inanç ve Kültür Derneği  where  Alevis congregate. In the data provided by the method of participant observation and field work recording, specific usages of music and its various forms will be offered into observation for an account of the importance of Alevi music for Alevi communities.

Rumiana Margaritova
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (Bulgaria):

Accessing the Secret Sounds and Movements: Representations of Alevi and Bektashi Ritual Music and Kinetic Forms from Bulgaria

Alevis and Bektashis are historically and culturally related Turkish-speaking Muslim communities of Asia Minor and the Balkans, confessing a strong cult of Ali and searching for a deeper inner sense of faith. Their centuries-long opposition to the Sunnis, their complex position of a “minority within a minority” in Bulgarian society, and some other reasons led to a perception of them as closed communities. This contributed to the preservation of their religious views which are still perpetuated through regular clandestine rituals, an integral part of which is music – songs (nefesler) accompanied by a folk lute (saz), with or without sacred movement (semahlar). The presentation examines different approaches to the representation of Alevi and Bektashi ritual music and kinetic forms, with a special focus on the potential of the virtual tour – an experimental form, which stands between the ethnographic film and the ethnographic exhibition, and which could provide an ethical mediation between the audience and the community still sensible to outsiders’ observations and interpretations.


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