One of the many fabulous aspects of living in New York City is the plethora of cultural events – or should I say multi-cultural events – that take place on any given day? The past week began with a phenomenal hip-hop dance event in the rotunda of a courthouse followed by a discussion on hip-hop culture.
A few days later, I attended the opening of the punk rock music exhibit at the Queens Museum called Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!: Ramones and the Birth of Punk.
Is it possible to top these events? How about a Sufi music concert by the prominent Turkish singer Ahmet Özhan and a performance by the Whirling Dervishes of the Istanbul Historical Turkish Music Ensemble, all presented by the Republic of Turkey at the Town Hall in NYC on April 12, 2016?
The event was called Whirling for Love, and for that evening, I felt like I was in Istanbul. Upon entry to Town Hall, we were greeted by representatives of the Turkish Consulate handing out brochures about Turkey and, of course, delicious Turkish Delight candies.
The first half of the evening consisted of a musical performance by singer Özhan accompanied by the Istanbul Historical Turkish Music Ensemble. I found it fascinating that none of the instruments were modern-day instruments, yet each had similarities and produced music similar to modern-day instruments.
Here is a video I made:
Next up were the Whirling Dervishes! The band moved to a corner, and one of the dervishes slowly and methodically arranged the prayer rugs. He then placed incense on the floor. Each dervish entered and bowed to the incense and took his place. The atmosphere was one of reverent silence and tranquility. There was a ceremony where an elder dervish, known as the Post-Nisheen, kissed each dervish’s hat. The dervishes then proceeded to bow and greet one another and walk in a circle around the stage. At one point they flung off their black robes, and slowly began to whirl. This too, was methodical, but it was also graceful and beautiful. Specific songs, specific moves. The beats got faster, and then, eventually they slowed. The dervishes put their robes back on, and one by one bowed and left the room.
Here is a video I made of the Whirling Dervishes performing Whirling For Love that evening.
I have been to Turkey, but never to a Whirling Dervish performance. I had not known of the significance or the ceremonies. It is really part of a Muslim prayer and solemn ritual. Everything that happens is significant. Nothing is happenstance. I learned a lot. And, aesthetically, the ceremonies and dancing, and, yes, twirling, was just so interesting and a pleasure to watch.