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The Sounds Of Rumi

The verses of Rumi, a 13th century Persian Sufi poet, have spread around the world over seven centuries, and continue to be popular today. They're the inspiration for composer and guitarist Sulaiman Zai's program of new music titled, simply, Rumi.

Not Just A Setting

"My music doesn't just set the verses, but is inspired by them, and by the generous spirit of the poetry," says Zai. "We have a variety of ensembles, ranging from a cello that's coming in via the internet from Australia all the way to a full cast of singers and instrumentalists led by our conductor, Gary Schneider."

An Oriental Flute Serves the Occident

David Haberman is a faculty member in IU's Department of Religious Studies. Although he has taught classes on the verses of Rumi, his connection with the concert is musical. "I heard my son play guitar in one of Sulai's concerts. That hooked me."

Haberman is also performing in the piece. "I'm playing a flute called a bansuri. It's an instrument that I took up when I was studying in India. I learned to play it by ear. I've had to work pretty hard to adapt myself to reading and playing this Western-style music."

A Title That Could Serve in Nashville

One of Zai's pieces has an interesting title: "Whoever Brought me Here Will Have to Take Me Home." Zai describes the music.

"It is kind of a narrative piece. It's about a visit to a sort of party. The beginning is expectant, but not too energetic. Then things do get pretty energetic... quite energetic. But then things calm down and the sort of consoling quality – that's an important part of Rumi's verses – takes over."

For More Sulaiman Zai...

  • Visit Sulaiman Zai's website
  • Watch a video of Sulaiman Zai performing his original composition "The Gift" with the Bloomington Pops Orchestra:

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