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The Mevlana Festival (Dec 2003)

Once again we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the blessings of Hazrat
Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi for his hospitality in what I heard one person
describe as a 'city of miracles'. It is true that this year was quieter than many
with respect to the usual invasion of foreign visitors - the larger  groups from
Iran, Bulgaria and many western countries were not so evident due
presumably to fears of the turbulent political times in which we live. But
nevertheless the city buzzed with excitement, and the transfer of the large
Sema performances of the whirling dervishes to a spectacular new purpose
built home was accomplished during this time. It was with just a little
sadness that we said goodbye to the Sports Stadium which had become
such a familiar place over the years. To have attended the last performance
there and the first at the new venue was to have been part of history.
Though not quite complete the new circular building, with a vastly increased
seating capacity and spectacular lighting, promises great things for the
future and returns to the Sema performance the dignity it deserves. On the
opening night this year the building was packed beyond seating capacity and
was visited by the prime minister and his entourage. Urgent business called
him away before the actual Sema performance but this too had an upside
for the many who were standing like me and were then able to find
seats.This year I was able again to attend the 'Konferance' (conference) at
the august Seljuk university where not only did distinguished scholars speak
about Mevlana but we were also treated to a dazzling and accomplished
display of flute (Ney) playing by one of the resident professors.This also
provided an interesting insight for me personally into Turkish culture. I was
sitting with a student of the university and a psychology professor both of
whom spoke excellent English. Both used the term 'perfect' in describing the
skills of the musician. I could not help but reflect on the use of this term -
rather than 'brilliant' or 'great' or 'inspired' or some such other term. Then I
realised that, of course, Turkish culture, along with other middle eastern
cultures I suspect, is a 'perfect culture' - that is to say it has within its psyche
a perfect model of culture, which includes social behaviour, which the
individual continuously aspires towards. Thus Turkish manners, dress etc -
so subtly impeccable - are a reflection of this aspiration. The western culture
has deep in its psyche a reverence for the new and innovative, the eastern
cultures of which Turkish culture is a part, has to absorb newness into its
own pre-existent 'perfect' norms. It is thus that the eastern culture acquires a
subtlety that frequently makes western culture appear crude for all its
innovative and challenging qualities.But culture is one thing - the inspiration
of the heart another. I was treated to a second (this time impromptu and
private) Ney recital in the office of the hotel at which I stayed. This was by a
Mevlevi musician from the Turkish Government Ensemble that plays at the
main Sema. Here there was no question of 'culture' - this was playing from
the heart and speaking to the heart. For just a matter of perhaps fifteen
minutes he played three short pieces each on a Ney of a different size.
Then Mevlana's poetic description of the Ney made a whole new kind of
sense. The notes stirring the heart, making it alive with love. Then culture
was nowhere but love was everywhere. The universal language of Love - the
message of Mevlana who was Iranian by birth, Turkish by adoption, a
Muslim by religion, a sufi by calling and a poet by inspiration, but the voice
of Universal Love by the Will of God.Jamiluddin Morris Zahuri
(Southampton, December 2003