A group of Iranian women are to cross barriers by performing Sama, the ecstatic Sufi dance for the first time in Vahdat Hall, situated in one of Tehran’s most glamorous and important cultural areas.
The all-female band Ava-ye Mehrabani (The Call of Kindness)will be accompanied by 35 daf or frame drum players, and will take place on the 16th of July, the band singer and director Soheila Purgerami said in a press release on Sunday.
Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam and followers, also called dervish, attempt to discipline both the mind and body in order to directly experience God.
The Sufi dance is performed with the Sama, on which the dervish tries to reach the source of all perfection by abandoning the egos and all desires, and focusing on solely God while spinning, mimicking the repetitive circles of the solar system orbiting around the sun.
In addition to groundbreaking Sama dance by women, the band has also scheduled selections of Khorasani folk music part of Iran’s northeastern region’s heritage to be part of their repertoire.
In Iran solo female singing has been banned since 1979 but there are no offcial restrictions on female musicians performing in public.
During a 2007 all-men Sama performance that took place in an opening ceremony commemorating the 800th birthday of the Persian mystic poet Molana Jala ad-Din Rumi, criticism was drawn against the organizers for staging the performance.
In the past, certain Sufi groups in Iran have come into conflict with the authorities in Iran, causing concern among some clergy over the observance of practices that departed from the conventional religious rituals in the country.
Sufis look to their own spiritual leaders, while Iran's official version of Islam advocates the practice of following a Marja-e taqlid, or a cleric who is an expert in Islamic jurisprudence.