Is Islam Still Alive with the Sound of Music, with Songs That Have Been Sung for a Thousand Years?

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]The title of this blog was borrowed from a 1965 musical entitled, The Sound of Music. While its theme is about the transformational power of music, there is an ongoing debate within Islam about whether or not it is a permissable form of expression.

Although not expressly addressed in the Koran, Islamic militants such as the Taliban have used Mohammed’s alleged hostility toward music to enforce brutual punishment against people singing and dancing at weddings.

Many moderate Muslims, on the other hand, believe that Islam forbids music when played in public places such as bars and taverns, where alcohol is consumed. Muslim musicians such as Salman Ahmad, from a Pakistani-American band, Junoon, and Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens, believe that musical expression has a place in Islam. Ahmad draws inspiration from Sufi poets, who subscribe to the less well-known denomination of Islam. Ahmad is regarded as the Bono of the muslim world, in his lobbying for Third World development, and building bridges between the islamic and western worlds.

Cat Stevens had stopped recording music after he first converted to Islam in 1978. After a lot of time and reflection, he concluded that there are no real guidelines about instruments, or the business of music in Islam. “Whenever one is confronted by something that is not mentioned in the scriptures, one must observe what benefit it can bring. Does it serve the common good, does it protect the spirit, and does it serve God?”

From the YouTube link below you can hear a song sung by the Pakistani band, Junoon, about the theme of world peace

Barry Dwork, author and owner of Peace of Music, October 29, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Barry Dwork is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Barry Dwork and Peace of Music with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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Before There was King Elvis, There was King David

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]As Rabbi Avraham Ariel Trugman put it in his book, The Mystical Power of Music, “music is a cosmic language that unites the physical and spiritual, body and soul, universal and particular, while simultaneously transcending time and temporal space altogether.” King David is considered to be the first to introduce what is considered to be music today as psalms.

Psalms were written as lyrics for the human voice. As the “sweet singer of Israel” David, before he became king, would be summoned to play an instrument and sing lyrics that would successfully calm a troubled soul. The harp and lyre were the instruments he would play.

Psalms were later introduced into Christianity’s services and ritual.  Martin Luther, the famous Protestant reformer, once said that “music is the best gift from God.” Paul, one of Jesus’ disciples, stressed the importance of singing lyrics and psalms to God.

Music’s role in Islam is a more complicated story. The earliest writing on Islamic music goes back to the ninth century, when a man named Lamak, in order to express sorrow for the loss of his son, made the first musical instrument of a lute from the leg of his son.

Mohammed was believed to have been hostile toward music and musicians. Yet he chose a singer to chant many of the verses in the Muslim call to prayer.

You can hear an interpretation of what were the sounds of the “sweet singer of Israel”, David, from the YouTube link below:

Barry Dwork, author and owner of Peace of Music, October 29, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Barry Dwork is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Barry Dwork and Peace of Music with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

An Axis of Peace, Part II: Iranian Rock Musicians Pursue a Different Path to Regime Change

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]While there many not be any more Iranian moderates or doves within that country’s government, there are among the younger generation. Seventy percent of Iran’s population are under the age of thirty.

Rock and heavy metal music became popular at the end of the Iran-Iraq War, fought throughout the 1980’s. O’Hum, a band that’s regarded as the pioneer in underground rock, began in 1999,  at a time of relaxed cultural policies under President Mohammed Khatami, Ahmadinejad’s predecessor.

O’Hum, or Illusions in Persian, plays a combination of Western hard rock, along with Persian traditional music and instrumentation.

After their first album was rejected by the Culture Ministry, the band created their own website and offered free downloads of the album.

O’Hum played for the first time at a concert for a mixed gender audience at a Russian Orthodox Church in Teheran.

Hypernova, a rock group originally from Iran, was formed at the same time. Also an underground band, they distinguished themselves from other Iranian groups by having some accomplished musicians in their group.

During 2008, they came to the United States from Dubai on a visa, and have not let since. They also became the first Iranian rock group to be signed by a US recording company.

The YouTube link below should take you to one of their videos for a song entitled, Sinners, which is quite powerful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEvh0mSLzSs&feature=player_detailpage

Barry Dwork, author and owner of Peace of Music, October 29, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Barry Dwork is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Barry Dwork and Peace of Music with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

An Axis of Peace: Part I: Heavy Metal Music as a Weapon of Mass Production

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]President George W. Bush in 2002 declared that Iraq, along with Iran and North Korea, were part of an Axis of Evil in a new post-911 world.

Acraissicauda, an Iraqi rock music band (Black Scorpion in English), is a story of four young musicians who have had life experiences unlike most. The band was formed in Baghdad in 2000, when two of the members met while studying at the same school. Since that period was before Sadaam Hussein was overthrown, Acraissicauda was forced to play under government censorship. They were not allowed, for example, to do headbanging on stage, as many heavy metal groups do. The Iraqi authorities considered that as something similar to what Jews do when they pray.

After Sadaam Hussein was overthrown in 2003, they began to receive death threats from Islamic militants, accusing the band of worshipping Satan. As a result of increased security precautions throughout Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion, Acraissicauda fled first to Syria, then to Turkey, and finally settled in the United States in 2009.

The YouTube links below include a trailer to a film about them, entitled, Heavy Metal in Baghdad.  You are forewarned that these links contain some profane language.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdE-JIOpHHc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoG7jgyi0bU&feature=player_detailpage

Barry Dwork, author and owner of Peace of Music, October 29, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Barry Dwork is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Barry Dwork and Peace of Music with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Taliban’s Worst Nightmare: Young Afghan Rock Musicians

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]The last time that there was a music festival in Afghanistan was in 1975. So the Central Asian Modern Music Festival, held on October 1, 2011, showcased a young generation of musicians from countries in central Asia.

Sound Central, the name of the organization that brings together young musicians and bands throughout central Asia, sponsored this festival. Sound Central’s founder,  Travis Beard, is a former photojournalist from Australia. Beard moved into video journalism in 2007, founding Argus Productions, a company that provides services to artists in Afghanistan.

Three Afghan rock bands that performed in this festival are Kabul Dreams, White Page, and District Unknown.   District Unknown, Afghanistan‘s first heavy metal band, described their music by the following quote “we have got aggression, depression, and we need to speak out for each and every Afghan youngster who needs to speak.” District Unknown, a band of four men, shocked their audiences in 2010 with their own version of the Eurhythmics song, “Sweet Dreams.” The lyrics “some of them want to use you, some of them want to abuse you”, applies to the lack of leadership and corruption in Afghanistan’s government.

Kabul Dreams, a band of three musicians from three different ethnic groups, sing songs of solidarity, love and unity. All of them lived outside of Afghanistan during the Taliban years, but moved back after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Since each comes from a different region in Afghanistan, speaking different languages, they sing in English to express their message to the world.

White Page is a four piece band . All band members are students of rock music styles at the Afghanistan Institute of Music. They were one of the bands that performed at a Youth Festival sponsored by the Institute at NATO.

This YouTube video will provide an example of their music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=GPOuYf-9X9M

Barry Dwork, author and owner of Peace of Music, October 29, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Barry Dwork is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Barry Dwork and Peace of Music with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Listening to You, I Get the Music

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]These are the closing lyrics for the Who’s rock opera, Tommy. To refresh our memories, Tommy, the main character, was a boy who became deaf, dumb and blind after witnessing the murder of his father. This trauma forced him to lose many of his senses. As Pete Townshend once said, once he lost his senses, Tommy received everything as rhythms and vibrations. So everything in the universe becomes music to him. “Deaf, dumb and blind boy,  he’s in a quiet vibration land,  strange as it seems, his musical dreams ain’t quite so bad.  Nothing to hear and nothing to say,  and nothing to see. Each vibration makes a note in my symphony.” The above lines are the lyrics to the song Amazing Journey, the fourth song on the album. According to Rabbi Avraham Ariel Truzman, the author of The Mystical Power of Music, music is contained in the soul, “expressing the most Divine aspect of the individual. It records the past, captures the present, and envisions the future. Music allows us to experience the very essence of eternity.”

To me, perhaps this is why when Tommy later breaks free from his inner block, he evolves into a prophet, helping people to live a spiritually purposeful life. The link below will take you to a YouTube video clip of the Tommy movie, with the song Amazing Journey. It’s the best I can find to  describe what might be going in young Tommy’s mind.
Barry Dwork, author and owner of Peace of Music, October 29, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Barry Dwork is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Barry Dwork and Peace of Music with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One Universal Note, Pure and Easy

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]

There once was a note, pure and easy,

playing so free like a breath rippling by,

The note is eternal, I hear it, it sees me,

Forever we blend this,

Forever we die,

I listen and I heard,

Music in a word,

and words when you play your guitar,

The noise I was hearing was a million people cheering,

and a child flew past me riding in a star.

These lyrics were written by Pete Townshend, the lead songwriter and guitarist for the Who. Pete had a vision that was ahead of his time. Believing that each of us has a musical note inside, he came up with a new project that involved using what is today the Internet to achieve a goal of a more spiritually contented world.

This original idea was conceived in 1971. Lifehouse, the name of this project, was intended to follow on a similar theme from Tommy, the rock opera that catapulted the Who to become the internationally recognized band that they are today.

However Townshend was not able to finish Lifehouse for many years. In 2007, teaming up with composer Lawrence Ball, and Dave Snowdon, a friend who owned a computer company, they came up with an Internet site called the Lifehouse Method. Each person would sit before a computer to have a musical portrait created for him or her;  similar to a painting portrait. Interaction with the software involved providing a sample of the voice, images to choose from that best fit that person’s identity, as well as sound files that best fit that portrait sitter’s natural voice. The subject then would have a rhythm recorded by either uploading an image of one, or by the amount of time between mouse clicks.

All of these musical pieces from all of the portrait sitters would then be fed into synthesizers that would produce a One Note, or one universal chord.

According to the project’s staff, there were 10,000 pieces of individual music when it had gone live in April, 2007.

Barry Dwork, author and owner of Peace of Music, October 29, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Barry Dwork is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Barry Dwork and Peace of Music with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

You can listen to Pure and Easy on the YouTube link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXfUk-jF6UE