‘Tribute to Humanity’ was the theme behind the World Muslim Choral Ensemble (WMCE) Ambassadors for Peace, which has transformed from the Muslim Choral Ensemble (MCE) encompassing choristers from different parts of the world who came together last Sunday (24) to render their meditative Islamic music to Sri Lanka. It was indeed a spiritual journey from start to finish, as the Artistic Director Prof. Andre de Quadros introduced the programme.
The Lionel Wendt was transformed into a ‘holy venue’ at the closing ceremony as devotional renditions took form bringing harmony to humanity.
The MCE, under which the WMCE falls, was co-founded by Haadia Galely (Executive Director) and ethnomusicologist Prof. Quadros in August 2017 as a platform for Muslims in Sri Lanka who have a passion for Islamic choral singing. Vocal Coach Manoj Sanjeewa has given his all to bring out the best from the choristers.
A world first, WMCE celebrates the diversity of Islamic choral traditions. The inaugural WMCE focused on Islamic devotional music traditions of South Asia and Iran. Their repertoire embraced Islamic spirituals including Nasheeds, Qasidas and Naats, styles connected to South Asia.
The varied types of Islamic song were rendered with much devotion by the choristers, sometimes solo and sometimes with the group which gave the audience an enthralling experience never to be forgotten! Every single rendition whether it was the singing or the instrumentalists who played instruments akin to their country, every one of them sent the message of love!
The show opened with the Azan – the Muslim call for prayer and a beautiful rendition of zikr. As is wont, the muezzin renders the Azan in mosques and masjids but here it gave a different feel because it was to commence a spiritual journey with song.
Recalling the words of the 12th century Muslim scholar Ibn Arabi on love, Prof. Quodros oft repeated Arabi’s quote. I quote the exact words, “I believe in the religion of Love, whatever direction its caravans may take, for Love is my religion and my faith.” This is the intimation of the WMCE to bring together people of different faiths and kindle love and desist from hatred which abounds worldwide.
The WMCE has no barriers – no race, no religion, no caste or creed, no gender but is a regrouping of humanity to spread the message of love, echoing the theme ‘Tribute to Humanity’. Transcending borders, it encourages cross-cultural collaboration worldwide with participation open not only to Muslims but to non-Muslims as well who have a passion for the genre.
The programme’s closing nasheeds reached such a crescendo that the audience could not stop putting their hands together and gave a standing ovation. Islamic music is a genre all its own which has risen to such heights in the early centuries which has now been given a new lease of life by the WMCE.
I will be failing in my duty if I don’t give due credit to Galely and her dedicated team to fulfil a stupendous task in bringing together choristers and instrumentalists from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the USA while enabling Prof. Quodros and Sanjeewa, to blend so well with the Sri Lankan group.
All in all, it was an enthralling performance and I am sure many in the audience would echo similar sentiments. It is planned as an annual event, to grow globally to link more Islamic devotional music traditions from diverse regions across the world.
By Fahima Farisz