Al-Hadra Troupe takes Sufi chanting from the mosque to the theatre

Amira Noshokaty , Tuesday 6 Jun 2017

The musical band was founded by Nour Nageh, a Sufi devotee who wanted to share Sufi religious music with a wider audience


It was an enchanting moment, with hundreds of audience members, in all their diversity, chanting along with the Sufi praise, reflecting a state of sublime serenity, a real treat amid all this global craziness.

With their green turbans and musical instruments, Al-Hadra Troupe chanted the night away, with powerful voices and equally mystical lyrics that opened up a whole new path to "the truth" for the theatre audience.

The term "Hadra" is derived from the Arabic word "hodor", meaning "presence". It usually refers to a circle of Sufi chanters who recite the Quran and praise Allah and the Prophet Mohamed. Lots of powerful Sufi lyrics by Sufi masters such as Rabaa Al-Adawia, Ibn Arabi and others are also chanted.

Often known as "the people of the truth", Sufies continue to inspire the world with their concepts of love, piety, and acceptance, seeking transcendence and a closer relationship with God.

There are millions of Sufis in Egypt, With over 74 authenticated Sufi orders registered with the Supreme Council for Sufi Orders.

These Sufis traditionally practice their rituals discretely, with chants and rituals traditionally confined to hadras, mosques and religious ceremonies.

However for the first time, the Sufi hadras are now being performed on stage before a random audience, taking the rituals beyond the normal audience of murideen (seekers).

The idea came to Nour Nageh, founder of the troupe, around two years ago. An artist and Sufi devotee, he decided to take the step of seeking a wider audience.

"I was done with the way mainstream religion focuses on repelling, rather than attracting, young people to religion. So God sent me to attend a Hadra, and since then I have been taken up with how to convey such sublime spirituality to other people," he told Ahram Online.

Nageh started searching for authentic munshideen (Sufi and religious chanters), identifying several Sufi devotees from various orders who joined the troupe.

With oud and drums and powerful voices, they chanted the night away, and Al-Hadra Troupe was born.

A devotee of Al-Khalilia Sufi order himself, Nageh explains that the hadra form represents Sufi orders as a whole, rather than just one order.

"I got the approval from my sheikh to perform hadra, as well as zikr," said Nageh, refering to another musical form that celebrates the grace of Allah through chanting his names and praises.

The Al-Hadra Troupe started out performing and practicing in El-Raba Cultural Center in Islamic Cairo. They then performed on a television show and joined the Fete de la Music in Ramadan 2015.

What makes them stand out is that they perform both the hadra rituals and zikr music, thereby reflecting the whole, authentic spiritual experience, from mosque to theatre.

The results are impressive, with audiences representing people from all walks of life flocking to the experience, hundreds of them chanting along.

"Most of the chants are sung in vernacular language and people relate to their heritage," Nageh said.

Through Al-Hadra Troupe, Nageh aims to revive and document the rich Sufi heritage of Egypt.

"Although Egypt has 30 times more Sufi heritage than Turkey, Egyptians are not that concerned with highlighting it and preserving it, " Nageh lamented.

Al-Hadra Troupe performs this Wednesday, 7 June, at the Cairo Opera House, Open-Air Theatre, at 9:30 pm


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