Recorded by Guangtian Ha. Xiaozhai, Ludian County, Yunnan Province. August 2015.
Voices of Jahriyya Sufism is strongly gendered. Women are often not allowed to join men in collective recitation. They may participate in the rituals as passive listeners, but their voices are never tolerated and are considered unanimously by men to be corrosive and detrimental to the efficacy of the rituals. Women’s own congregations are rare, and the impediments to their learning the recitations manifold. However, some women do manage to learn and form their own groups. They find their own voices alongside those of men, although this is often conditioned on a careful spatial segregation of gender. Women can recite in their own space, but are never allowed to emerge from this space to impinge on that occupied by the men.
This recording shows the women of Jahriyya reciting Awrad, a collection of short Qur’anic verses and praises recited daily after the morning prayer. An abridged version of this text is recited after the third prayer of the day. What distinguishes this recitation from its male counterpart is the vocal dynamic: while a clear and crucial separation between the leading reciter and the followers is clearly demarcated among the men, such division is rarely audible among the women. There is little organized collaboration among the women reciters – each is an individual, minding her own voice regardless of what is happening around them. They may hear others’ voices, and may at times try to correct their lapses. But such corrections are also on an individual basis. There is no group dynamic. They do try to recite with the same pace, to begin and end on the same syllable and the same note. However, a comparison to men’s recitation shows clearly that it is precisely this apparent simultaneity that abolishes the dynamic inherent to daore, the Jahriyya notion for the melody or tune of a recitation.
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