Following their highly successful concerts in Brisbane last year, the Istanbul Music and Sema Ensemble was invited back to Australia for four more concerts during the month of October 2003. So far the group has performed more than 150 times in the US, Canada, India, Australia, and in various European countries, bringing to audiences traditional forms of Turkish sacred music, particularly the Sema ceremony of the whirling dervishes of the Mevlevi order.

   The mission of the Istanbul Music and Sema Ensemble was to deliver Rumi's message of love and tolerance which the group tries to accomplish by holding authentic Mevlevi ceremonies, an important aspect of Ottoman/Turkish mysticism, and by presenting Turkish Sufi music in its purest form. The twenty-member ensemble performed twice in the world-famous Sidney Opera House. In addition, The Melbourne Festival and Melbourne Concert Hall hosted the group which performed on two occasions.

   The Istanbul Music and Sema Ensemble is honored by the presence of the legendary Kani Karaca as vocalist. The music director of the ensemble, Serhat Sarper, is also a vocalist. The artistic director is Hakan Talu who plays the tambur, or the long-necked Turkish lute. The ritual ceremonies are led by Nadir Karnıbüyükler.

The performances were in two parts. The first part, entitled "All voices lead us to God" will present selections from the most famous classical composers including Buhurizade Mustafa Itri, Hammamizade Ismail Dede Efendi and Zekai Dede. These compositions have the following musical forms of Tekbir, Salat, Tevsih,Zikr, Durak and Ilahi. Also included in the first section of the concerts are Kasides with lyrics written mostly by leading mystical figures such as Yunus Emre and Sheik Galip. In the second part, entitled "This whirling is a magical path toward Love" compositions by Sultan Selim III and Sheik Hüseyin Fahrettin Dede will accompany the whirling dervishes in their Mevlevi ritual called the Sema, or Mukabele. Sultan Selim III's composition was written in the Suzidilara mode and Fahrettin Dede's in the Acemasiran makam.

   Istanbul Music and Sema Ensemble is proud to be the first Turkish group to be invited to the Melbourne Art Festival. In addition to the classical music concerts and the Sema performances, the Istanbul Music and Sema Ensemble also conducted seminars exploring the teachings of Rumi and the traditions of Ottoman/Turkish mystical music in general.

   In December 2003, the Istanbul Music and Sema Ensemble performed in the US during the Şeb-i Arus, commemorating Rumi's death. The great mystic poet, Celalledin-i Rumi referred to his own death as the "wedding night" expressing the joy in finally uniting with God. The ensemble also recorded for the first time 10 Mevlevi rituals, or ceremonies, which have rarely been performed.

See also Whirling Dervish Ceremony in Istanbul,Turkey by Les  Arts Turcs 

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