مشاهدة جميع الاصدارات : Sheikh Mohamed El-Helbawi :Ramadan Night

24-10-2005, 09:43
Sheikh Mohamed El-Helbawi and his band opened the Ramadan programme at the Talaat Harb Library in the charming neighbourhood of Al-Sayyeda Nafisa. The Library is up a little slope across from the square in front of the mosque. People sitting on the sidewalk-turned-café in the square seemed to be inhaling the very breath of old Cairo along with their water pipes: for an evening the city's lungs and theirs became one. Perhaps it is because it is so difficult for cars to circulate that the area has much less traffic than, say, Al-Sayyeda Zeinab or Al-Sayyeda Eisha. This, in turn, makes the place seem like an open-door museum of sorts.

Inside the library garden the chairs were occupied by an audience drawn from the neighbourhood, mostly women and girls. It was refreshing to see an audience not comprised of CDF Ramadan regulars. The stage was surrounded by trees through which lights had been trailed, their leaves dancing in the autumn breeze to the accompaniment of the chants.

The munshid was wearing traditional Azharite garb. To his left was a chorus of two, dressed in white abayas lined in gold while to his right was the band, comprising a nay (flute), an oud (lute), douff (tambourine) and tabla (drums). Despite having a cold, for which El-Helbawi apologised, the 12 part programme proceeded smoothly.

The introductory three parts comprised the call for prayer with chorus, " Al-Azan Al-Sultani ", the last verses from Surat Al-Baqara in the Qur'an which constitute a prayer to be forgiven and accepted by God, followed by Asmau Allahu Al-Husna (the 99 names of God) -- the latter now a staple of the opening of most celebrations, including weddings and engagement parties.

El-Helbawi's performance proper was dedicated to two Sufi poets, Sharaf al-Din al-Busiri (b 608 -- d 695 AH; 1212-1295 AD), author of Al-Burda, and Umar Ibn al-Farid (b 576 -- d 632 AH; c. 1181-1235 AD), of Syrian origin, though he settled in the Muqattam Hills for much of his life.

El-Helbawi sang with minimal orchestration, depending on microphone technique for dramatic effect, producing a vocalisation more akin to the style of traditional Arab singers than to that of muqri'in (Qur'anic reciters).

The douff featured prominently in the eighth song, articulating a drunken theme. The following song, " Sala Allahu 'ala Muhammad / Sala Allahu 'alaihi wa salam " included an exquisite solo from the blind flutist, with the earlier drumming picked up again by the tabla. El-Helbawi's penultimate song was a plea to God to grant his approval of his worshipers, whose minds are limited and cannot conceive of his greatness. In one hour, with culminating crescendos at the end of each of the 12 songs, the sheikh traced a journey from the desperation of one lost in the desert, not knowing in which direction to turn, through the troughs of drunkenness and oblivion to enchantment with the love of and longing for the divine.