‘We’re taking the man out of the myth’: the musical reclaiming Rumi from Instagram | Stage

He is all over the place and nowhere. The phrases of Jalal al-Din Rumi are discovered on sundown photographs pasted on Instagram and low mugs offered on Etsy; his poems have been featured in recordings from Madonna and Coldplay and he’s reputed to be the bestselling poet in the US. Rumi’s observations and aphorisms on life could also be endlessly cited – “You aren’t a drop in the ocean, you might be the whole ocean in a drop” – however few in the west know him as something greater than a bearded Sufi mystic.

“Rumi has turn into a mystical, virtually deified determine,” says Nadim Naaman. “The fact is that he was the reverse of an untouchable deity.” Naaman, a British Lebanese singer, actor and author, has collaborated with the Qatari composer Dana Al Fardan to create Rumi: The Musical. “Our method was to take the man out of the fable,” says Al Fardan, “and to current him as human being.” That is the second time Naaman and Al Fardan have introduced a beloved Center Jap poet to the London stage. Their 2018 present Broken Wings, which is returning to London in the new yr, was based mostly on a novel by the Lebanese poet and author Kahlil Gibran. It was the success of that manufacturing that satisfied them there could also be an urge for food for a musical that delved into the life of Rumi.

Dana Al Fardan
Qatari composer Dana Al Fardan, who has collaborated with British Lebanese singer, actor and author Nadim Naaman, to create Rumi: The Musical

Rumi was born in 1207 in current day Afghanistan. He was 36 and married with two youngsters when he met a wandering mystic often called Shams of Tabriz. The 2 started what began as an intense friendship, and which could have developed right into a love affair. When Shams disappeared after three years, Rumi turned to poetry to deal with the separation, writing greater than 3,000 love songs to Shams, the prophet Muhammad and God.

The modern reputation of Rumi traces again to the mid-Seventies and the translations of Rumi’s writing by the American tutorial and poet Coleman Barks, who sought to foreground the timeless, common essence in the writings. “His whole ideology relies on cultivating the essence inside,” says Al Fardan. “Rumi managed to latch on to themes and emotions that may apply to everybody,” says Naaman. “He’s managed to try this as a result of his focus is on self-reflection.”

These concepts really feel well timed given the pandemic and its aftermath. “We’ve all reassessed our lives,” says Naaman, “and explored what we are able to do with out and our place in the world.” His writings might transcend time and place however Rumi was not solely a mystic and thinker – he was additionally a religious Muslim. Lately his Muslim id is never recalled by these in the west who quote him so liberally. The erasure of Rumi’s Islamic id – what one tutorial refers to as an act of “religious colonialism” – can be what makes a manufacturing comparable to this needed. It seeks to revive a spiritual and geographic specificity to Rumi and in so doing problem frequent tropes about the Center East.

Nadim Naaman
Nadim Naaman

“We’re drained of the portrayal of our area in drama, the place the focus is at all times problematic – terrorism, refugees, conflict,” says Naaman. “There’s a lack of Center Jap tales and people who do exist are fictitious or very Hollywood of their interpretation. You could have exhibits like Aladdin, The Prince of Egypt and Joseph – tales that, to a big diploma, come from Center Jap and north African heritage, however they’ve traditionally been performed by white actors with white inventive groups they usually’re virtually a pastiche. They’ve the proper coronary heart however they’re not genuine.”

The solid of Rumi: The Musical, in contrast, is of Center Jap, north African and south Asian heritage, and the 20 songs featured in the semi-staged manufacturing are all impressed by Rumi’s poetry. “In the event you’re going to carry a Center Jap icon to the western stage to have a good time their cultural legacy, it feels completely proper that your solid are capable of be an element of that, so they can really feel proud that they’re the one telling the story from their half of the world,” says Naaman.

The staff behind the musical hope that by revealing the man behind the fable audiences may additionally really feel capable of disentangle the reality from the myths about Islam and the Center East. “There may be way more to the Center East than they [those living in the west] have been led to consider rising up,” says Naaman. “So many lovely issues on planet Earth come from that area – artistically, linguistically, musically – a lot of the tradition the world enjoys.”

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