This was supposed to be an interview with Sheik Nail Kesova, the director of Galata Mevlevi Ensemble, that is to say the Pir or Dede, the person guiding the Sema, the whirling ritual dating back to the 13th Century and performed by the dervishes, while the traditional Mevlevi music is played live. It ended up as a lecture on universal values and a lesson about expectations.
I traveled to Venice just to join the performance happening at Teatro Goldoni because of Veneto Jazz Association and Teatro Stabile del Veneto broader vision about what people may like (there’s more to life than X Factor…).
Sheik Nail Kesova welcomes me with a quiet smile and talks hypnotically. He tells me about the whirling dance as a form of prayer that the Sufi Muslim ascetics do to be connected with God. He says that to them there is a mutual understanding between different religions and that religion stands for morals. Since ethics are universal, he believes everybody can join the ritual as an onlooker, “If you are ready to have a guest in your heart”, referring to God.
“My heart, without legs and head, starts flying when I’m with God”, he says, then adds that: “Whirling is easy. The dervishes are like a dynamo, they generate some energy as they start moving and then just keep going”. As I look at him bewildered, he explains that: “Music will affect you, because is so much stronger than words, it’s the language of angels. Don’t try to understand with your brain, use your heart”. Then he leaves for the rehearsals.
I count the hours to the beginning of the ritual. It’s something I fantasised for years, so I am totally taken aback when I realise I’m half asleep in the next fifteen minutes. I imagined the energy spreading around and me being filled with it and ready to spin around with them. I blame the Spritz I had as I was having a bite. I struggle to keep my eyes open, but they close. I can hear the music, I perceive the dervishes movement and my expectations make me feel guilty for wasting such a chance to see what’s going on, until I gently give up. “Use your heart, not your brain”, Al Sheik Nail Kesova said and heart has no eyes. I figured more drama and I experience inner peace.
Photos Roberto Rosa