Hi everybody. It's been quite a month. I spent about 10 days at Pennsic, then two weeks traveling for research on the caftan book. It's going to take me quite a few blog posts to get updated, so bear with me.
Pennsic (Pennsicwar.org) was amazing. This is the first time I've been back in 12 years so some things were very familiar and some things were entirely new.
I camped down in the bog with Orluk Oasis for the first time as guests of Carla and Ted from Turku. I was right on the edge of the lake so I had wonderful shade and I spent part of every morning relaxing in front of my tent and making tajs to sell at MidEast Magic.
I 'guest taught' at a class on Ottoman singing and at the Guedra, but I didn't teach any classes on my own. I felt a little guilty, but limiting my commitments made this feel like a real vacation. I promise I will teach lots next year.
I think my favorite thing about the event was a Sufi evening that Ted, Carla and I put together. Well, mostly Ted and Carla.
Almost a year ago, Ted began an online class for vocalists and musicians to learn a song composed in the 15th. century. It was probably written in Samarkand in the Timurid Empire and we know it became very popular in Ottoman Turkey.
And yes, it took eleven months for us to learn this thing. It's 8 1/2 minutes long, there are no repeats, no chorus, it's in a dead language and the time signature is 14/9.
Yup. 14/9, you read that right. I can sing it, I can dance it, but I CANNOT count it. That's Carla's job.
Here is an instrumental version, this one has lyrics.
So quite a few of us worked on the song all year and then Ted taught a series of four classes at Pennsic. Carla also had the brilliant idea to make a large banner with the lyrics on it using Spoonflower's fabric print-on-demand service. It was hugely helpful, and is beautiful too.
So once we all knew the song, we hosted an invitation-only Sufi evening. It was invitation-only because we wanted it to be participants only, no audience. We worked from a list of songs, Sufi hymns, improvised saz music and mystical poetry, but we let it all unfold in a natural way. Ted's playing is exquisite as always, and there was a lovely woman who played a kamanche (spiked fiddle) which is one of my favorite instruments in the world. I brought a stack of poetry books and people found things they wanted to read and could participate that way, as well as singing illahi (Sufi hymns) and the song we learned Rast Kar-i Muhtesem.
I also recited a poem I wrote inspired by the Turkish song Havada Bulut Yok, while Ted played the song. I am beyond honored at the kind reception it received, it was a hard thing for me to write but everyone at the gathering helped create such a safe space to open up.
The folks at Orluk also came out of nowhere with Turkish coffee and Turkish tea, fresh fruit and snacks.
What also made me very happy is that the attendees were so diverse. There were SCA oldsters like myself and others,but in at least one case, this was the person's first event ever. Some of our guests we have known for multiple decades, some people were new friends who found us through the online class or the classes we did on site. Some attendees have gone very deeply into Eastern research and personas, and some have only a limited interest in Eastern things.
I sat by the lake for a long time after everyone left, feeling very at peace, and very loved. And Ted, being Ted, had next year's song up on our online course before the rest of us made it off site. I cannot wait to do this again.