Sufi Mystical Music in Morocco

On assignment in Morocco last year, Lonely Planet gave me the task of investigating Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, for broadcast on National Geographic Channels International. The following footage wound up on the cutting room floor, but recently reappeared on YouTube.

Sufi music is a means of connecting to the Divine through chanting and dance. But it’s more than simply worship; it also serves a therapeutic purpose. When someone is depressed or otherwise mentally ill, Sufis consider the sufferer to be endiablé – inhabited by a devil – and the only solution is to drive away the demon with an ever-crescendoing swell of heavy percussion and songs set to religious poetry. It’s incredibly loud – especially when the horns blare.

Imagine yourself depressed. A brotherhood of ten robed mystics shows up at your bedside and starts drumming and singing in a clamorous fortissimo. There’s no ignoring them – and that’s the point: to penetrate the sufferer’s consciousness, rouse him from torpor, and get him up and moving in a sort of trance-dance. Once this happens, the music must not stop until the endiablé falls to the floor, an indication that the demon has been exorcised. Continue reading