Sufis at the Cinema

Artist: Various Artists

Produced by: Times Square Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            Before I review Sufis at the Cinema from Time Square Records, I feel I must explain what sufi is.  The mystical and ancient branch of Islamic religion known as Sufism emphasizes the followers path toward unity with God.  Sufi music is based on this branch of religion and the poetry inspired by it.  The music is presented in many diverse forms.  Sufis at the Cinema is a two-CD set featuring fifty years of Bollywood Qawwwali (a folklorish style of sufi music) ad sufi song dating from 1958 to 2007.

            The first CD in the set features twelve tracks focusing on music from the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  Those of you acquainted with this style of music know that the tracks can be long, ranging from nearly five minutes to eleven and a half minutes in length.  The first couple of tracks on this CD, although performed by different artists and taken from different films, are very similar and I wondered whether I wasnít about to hear the same music over and over again.  However, I began to notice that as the years moved forward, the musical styles became more modern and much more interesting.  I especially found the last track, Ashiq Ho to Aisa Ho from Noorie, to be quite enjoyable.

            Then it was on to the second CD featuring music from the 60s to the new millennium.  The music on this CD was much more diverse, featuring a much more modern style and approach.  I found I enjoyed this CD much more with the exception of Lambi Judai from Hero and its strangely inserted string solo appearing at the least likely of moments and sounding as if it didnít belong to the song at all.  Some of the tracks had a playful quality, but the latter tracks seemed to reflect a more romantic nature.

            Although I enjoy listening to exotic music, I feel that my experience with Sufis at the Cinema was extremely inhibited by the inability to understand the language.  I found that I enjoyed the music much more as the years progressed on the CDs, but increasingly found myself wondering just what was being sung.  Unfortunately, not knowing the lyrics perhaps stunted my ability to fully enjoy this album.  However, that doesnít mean that I didnít enjoy the music.  Perhaps someone with more knowledge of the language and the styles can get more out of the two-CD set that is Sufis at the Cinema.  For now, all I can say is that I enjoyed the unique and exotic style and the use of traditional instruments of the region as well as more modern orchestral instruments that appeared in songs on the second CD.


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