The Mevlevi order, also known as the Whirling Dervishes, is a sub-order of Sufism mostly located in Turkey. All Sufi orders believe in a universal God and in order to experience “direct spiritual union” they practice meditation and contemplation. Within the Sema ceremony, music is significant as it guides the dancers in a slow dance which they initially participated to further their relationship with God. For example, the dancers (samazan) enter “slowly, with their arms crossed and hands on shoulder, a posture meant to represent the oneness of God.” Overall, the music accompanies the dancers’ “graceful and ecstatic” movements. The music consists of instruments like the ney (flute), lutes, and percussion instruments (drum and cymbal). The verses that are sung during the ceremony originate from religious poetry found in Islam’s religious scripture, the Qur’an.
This was similar to the Buddhist chants we learned about in that the text used were from ancient scriptures. In the worship ceremony, Buddhist monks also intend to become more spiritually connected to God just as those of the Mevlevi order. What I found was interesting is that Buddhist music was focused much more on meaning rather than being pleasing to the ear. Their harmonic singing is something that was unique to American music which I am more familiar with. It’s interesting that in the Mevlevi, there are dancers who dance in order to become one with God while the Buddhists take a different approach by focusing and disciplining their minds in order to reach that same state of peace. The intentions of the music are to meditate and reach their ultimate goal of union with the supreme being, but the way in which they do so differs.