Madman of God (Crammed Discs craw 22, 2006)
The Sufi are a minority sect in the Muslim world, their belief in music and poetry as means of spiritual enlightenment running particularly contrary to the prevailing (and misguided) image of Islam as a religion that seeks to suppress such forms of artistic expression. It’s Sufism that fuels such musical styles as qawwali and Gnawa trance, and it’s what inspired influential poets like Rumi.
The words of those 11th to 19th century mystic poets and the classical Persian melodies that turned them into songs are the basis of Sussan Deyhim’s Madman of God.
The title refers not to fanaticism but rather a trying sort of spiritual longing, which Deyhim’s epic, slightly eccentric vocals embody gloriously. Her voice is multitracked throughout as though to show myriad desires of the same soul, inhabiting arrangements that feature Arabic, Indian and Western strings and percussion.
The musical backdrops and voices prop each other up solidly, resulting in songs that are layered without being cluttered or make space to let the combination of music and divinely sung verse soar with unhurried ecstasy. Unmistakably reaching for something sacred, there’s also a feeling that this deeply appealing disc yearns for a simple, peaceful beauty that madmen of a very different sort would seek to destroy.
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