Giovanni De Zorzi
University "Ca' Foscari" of Venice, Italy
THE JÂHRI CONCEPT IN CENTRAL ASIA AND ITS IMPLICATION IN SUFISM, MUSIC AND THERAPY
Contributing to the geo-cultural and geo-musical perspective of the conference, I propose to consider jâhri as an ancient emic concept that relates directly to sound and stands apart from and before the Eurocentric concept of music. The jâhri concept has influenced certain intertwining practices and elements, which I will artificially separate to consider here.
Many types of zikr known nowadays have been transmitted orally within jâhri circles, and many of them are documented in ancient treatises. Arguably the most famous among scholars and ethnomusicologists is the so-called ‘saw zikr’ (zikr-i arra, modern Turkish zikr-i erre, Arab al-dhikr al-minshāri). Apart from this, during my fieldwork I recorded and transcribed four types of zikr classified by the accentuation number of their verbal formulae, that is 1–2–3–4 zarbs (yek zarb, do zarb, se zarb, chahâr zarb), together with some other types of zikr, such as ‘zikr of Zangi Buwa’, ‘zikr of Zakariyya’ and ‘zikr Na Domad’ (See De Zorzi 2006).Each of these has a long and deep-rooted history that confirms its name and justifies its recognition as ‘intangible heritage’ according to the UNESCO parameters.
Raqs-i samô (raqs-i samâ)
Hâfiz activity can be distinguished according to its context and environment: during a zikr the hafiz sings mystical poems in order to placate those present, giving relief to the zakîrs after certain incandescent phases of zikr or, at a different phase, to rekindle and revive the fire of zikr. Beyond the ecstatic state of zikr and the heightened emotional nature of communal life in Sufi circles (halqa), the hâfiz often also sings and performs at toys, ceremonial meetings held at crucial moments of life, such as birth, circumcision, marriage and death.
It is important to note that some hâfiz became professional, ‘secular’ singers, while continuing their confraternal activity. For instance, the brothers Akmal-khan and Bâbâ-khan Subhânov (or Sofikhânov) were trained as yasavi hâfizs in the circle (halqa) of zikr directed by their father. Famous and beloved in their home town of Yasi (Turkestan) in South Kazakhstan, they had to move to Tashkent to escape political/cultural repression, and there they recorded on Uzbek national radio. The brothers and their séances of zikr are remembered with deep affection by the great Uzbek soloist Turgun Alimatov (see Levin 1996:62-65). They can be heard on the CD Ouzbékistan, Grandes voix du passé (1940–1965) by Jean During and Abdurahim Hamidov (1999:1-3).
Zikr and healing
Photos by Giovanni De Zorzi
De Zorzi, Giovanni. 2006. Gli zikr della confraternita sufi yasawiyya nella valle del Fergana (Uzbekistân, Kazakhstân, Kirgyzstân). Dottorato di ricerca in Storia e Analisi delle Culture musicali. Dipartimento di studi glottoantropologici e musicali dell’Università “La Sapienza”. Roma. PhD thesis (unpublished).
During, Jean and Hamidov, Abdurahim. 1999. Ouzbékistan, Grandes voix du passé (1940–1965). Paris: Ocora-Radio France. CD C 560142.
Levin, Theodore. 1996. The Hundred Thousand Fools of God. Musical Travels in Central Asia (and Queens, New York). Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.