Egypt has a long standing tradition in religious Sufi music and some of the most famous munshids (performers of Islamic religious singing) come from here. Sufism is a mystical dimension of Islam, which became organized in more permanent Sufi orders from the 13th century onwards. Informal Sufism today is mostly accessible at mawlid-s (saint festivals), where the Sufi munshid is in control of the hadra (a form of corporate worship which may comprise special prayers, sermons and dhikr – collective rhythmic repetition of selected Names of God, usually accompanied by bowing or turning movements). Since authoritative religious sanctions against music and emotionality are absent in these public events, inshad is freer and musically richer. The public hadra is open, creative, improvisational, sometimes chaotic – as opposed to the closed ritual order of the tariqa hadra – and participants display a much broader range of emotional behavior. (See booklet of CD “The Magic of the Sufi Inshad” Long Distance Series)
It is in this tradition that the group Madayeh performs. The group refers their music to the great Sufi Sidi Abu el Gheit from the Qalyubia governorate in Egypt. The texts of their songs deal with the life and deeds of this holy man and their ceremonies are related in their pacification and reconciliation properties to the power of his work and his spirit.
The group has a very unique approach, combining some elements of Zar with Sufi Music. They use particular instruments that differ from other dhikr groups, such as the sallamiya (flute), finger cymbals and special kinds of dhoff (drum) with two or three strings close to the skin called mazhar. The melodies they use are different than the renowned inshad, even though they refer to religious Sufi traditions and famous recitators, especially from the Northern Coastal regions. The rhythms of their performance are based on a variety of drumming techniques, which follow a special tempo, pattern and playing technique.
There are very few persons in Egypt left who play this kind of music and to witness one of their performances is a special and rare occasion.