Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Musical peacemaker of religions

According to my perception Felix Maria Woschek was born to German, Christian family. His spiritual music is one of the most touching ones I've ever heard. Why did I name him as a musical peacemaker of religions? Because he's famous for "unusually placing his music in the service of religious spirituality, but without favouring any one religion in the process". His musical genre is New Age but I absolutely love how religious his albums are: He sings Indian bhajanas and mantra songs of Jews and Sufi muslims. He has also made Gregorian chants in the pentatonic scale and as I said, Jewish songs and Islamic hymns. Because of his music's religious variety it could be soundtrack of my blog when opening the page, because I want to use God's word for increasing tolerance just like he does by his music. I love how he has sang also Old Testament psalms as Psalms are one of my favourite books of the Bible. He has been said to succeed in creating understanding between religions and in opening people's hearts towards other cultures.

He started singing as a child in Aachen's minister choir and that's how he found Western spiritual music. Singing the works of great masters and and the entire Gregorian liturgy made him a deep impression and he has described them as "mystical experiences". As a young boy he tried various genres of music from rock and blues to jazz. He even learned to play e-guitar that he still uses today with his music. But as 22-years-old he got so frustrated about "professional" music that he quit guitar playing, because he didn't find satisfying contents. After that he experienced a phase of serious illness and for a few years he struggled with life and death. In his quest for healing and recognition he went to India where he met Sathya Sai Baba. That was his first time of listening to Indian bhajanas and they touched him deeply. He bought an Indian reed organ and started singing these songs himself. This music healed him and that's how he found music again and since then he his only desire has been to make music of the heart. He's very talented as he does the graphic design of the albums himself and he composes and records all his pieces himself.

Album reviews

Shalom Salam Vol. 2 is inspired by violence and destruction between Jewish and Arabic people to create peace and understanding between the parties. His wife Elke and Persian Sufi and ney master Mohammad Eghbal together with a Jewish singer Rebecca Vilensky and drummer Raimund Engelhardt have joined him in the creative process of turning this precious piece of work into reality. Though finding peace between muslims and Jews is the main point of this album it begins with two traditional meditative mantras from Hinduism sung in Sanskrit ("Gurubandana" and "Shri Krishna"). Woschek has absolutely beautiful, peaceful, low and expressive singing voice. The sounds he creates with his instruments are simply heavenly. I have to say I love the sound of ney (sufi flute). He also uses acoustic and electric guitar, e-sitar, synthesizer, violin, setar and drums (daf, dirbuka and tabla). Also the vocals play an important role. Third song "Shalom Aleichem" contains a spoken part in Persian and then it continues with traditional Hebrew words and music from Israel. The next song "Allah huma salle Allah Mohammad" has traditional Arabic words and music from Sufi tradition. The fifth and sixth song "Hinneih Matov" with traditional Hebrew words and music is divided into parts I and II part I being the longer one. Woschek has highlighted quite much Judaism in this album as also track number 7 "Nigun" is Israeli with Chassidim words and music. The last song is once again from Sufi tradition sung in Arabic and it's called "Bismillah allhamdulillah La Illaha Illalla".

My final grade: A deserved 10, because at least to my own ears he sounds perfect and smooth together with his collaborating artists. Also the most important reason to give him this grade is his remarkable creative control on his work.
The both albums I've heard from him that I now review are inspiring. But I have to say that as a Christian the musical image that he has created of Christ in this Gospodi - the light of Christ album wakes up more conversation with the inner me. That's because this album isn't traditional Christian music. The first song is called "Gospodi - I am in the light" and it has taken its influences from Russian Orthodox Christian music and Gregorian singing. The piece starts with calm, floating Indian singing and sarangi-playing, the so-called Alap of the Indian Raga. He also uses the choir in this song to create an atmosphere of a cathedral and then there is this mystical-monotonous sound of the Sufi drum. The song is a Russian prayer "Gospodi pomilui - Lord, have mercy". For the compositions of this cd he has chosen the central mantras of Christian liturgy; the focal prayer "Lord, have mercy upon me - Christ have mercy upon me" is also "Kyrie eleyson - Christe eleyson" in Greek and he has used it in the third and last track of the album. In "Kyrie" he has taken influences from Catholic Gregorian liturgy. The second track of this album is a Hebrew mantra "Hallelujah". BUT despite that also this song has Orthodox influences but also the lightness of flute and dulcimer brings in the joy of Celtic bards. He writes that the pieces are deliberately long in order to create the space of necessary for achieving depth through the repetition of the mantras and for building up the godly energy.
All in all the instruments he used in this album are vocals, flute, acoustic and electric guitar, keyboards, tambura, sarangi, pacavaj - drum, hammer-dulcimer, soprano-saxophon and acoustic and electric bass. Once again all music is composed and arranged by Felix Maria Woschek himself.
My final grade: 10 -

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