In this time of sorrow – The flowering of Desert Rose’s music

In this time of sorrow, when so many are reeling from the pain of earth loss, of beauty’s destruction, of oppression and challenge of every sort,  I have felt encouraged and spiritually supported by the music of Desert Rose, which I encountered in Cape Town, South Africa in 2011, when they appeared to lend their message of harmony and peace to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, in which I was participating.  They have an indelible sound that reaches very deep.  It is a joy that they have released a new CD.  See below to sample or order the music and see the creators of it.-AW

The flowering of Desert Rose’s music

KAREN KOTZE, in The Tatler

Lynne Holmes and Yusuf Ganief speak fluidly about freedom, the divinity of nature, and alchemy.

They are centred and gentle – with incandescent intelligence. They are, together, the heart of the group Desert Rose, and their music is where the alchemy they allude to, pools.

Theirs is a growing genre, one that reflects a turn in the tide of consciousness: they create what is called sacred music, otherwise known as universal world music. And they do that from Rondebosch East, in Cape Town.

These love songs to the earth and ancient knowledge are sung in languages from long ago. Ancient Aramaic and Sumerian, along with instruments rarely heard on today’s airwaves, like the ney and Egyptian fiddle. The ney, which is possibly the oldest pitched instrument known to man, is an oblique rim-blown reed flute, with a range of two and half octaves.

Unusual for a classically trained musician, but not out of the ordinary for Lynne, who has always tread a softer path, nor for Yusuf who was raised in the Sufi tradition and is able to hear Rumi poems in everyday conversation.

The result of their combined talent is melded musical and vocal magic. Yusuf describes the music as a bit of a short-cut for people who battle to med itate. “It’s sometimes difficult for us to still our minds and go inward for the inspiration we need, but with the right music, you can be taken right into that stillness.”

Lynne says: “We want to contribute towards a society of healing rather than a society of breaking down, we want to use the power of music, to benefit others.”

Their work encapsulates what Lynne describes as an urgent call to wake up. “We have an urgent responsibility to wake up,” she says.

Lynne (music composer, director, pianist, and keyboard/harp player) has dedicated her life to the study of communication through music. Not just learning the notes of the music, which is a language in its own right, nor learning the original languages, but also through studying music therapy, and the effects of music on us.

She says: “We have the potential to move into destruction: or with all our knowledge and where we are at, from an evolutionary point of view, we have the potential to take all this wisdom and knowledge… and turn it into a creative golden age… we are aspiring to usher that in, through music.”

Lynne’s relationship with music started when she was six years old. Years later, after marrying and havHing children, she returned to music, but not in the classical genre. She created three CDs in universal world music and was signed to a London record company when she met Yusuf, then the CEO of the Cape Town Festival.

“When I heard him sing,” she says, shaking her head slowly, “I had been looking for that ancient indigenous voice, that he has. His voice encapsulates those ancient scales which come from his slave ancestry from Indonesia, and which have powerful impact on the listener.”

Their first CD composed together, Spirit of Africa, became CD of the year locally. They travelled to Turkey, blossomed, and were asked to start performing.

Then, in 2009, came the fatwa, an Islamic legal pronouncement, edict or decree.

“One person took umbrage to the fact that we had placed the Christian Lord’s Prayer alongside a Muslim prayer, which is an almost identical prayer. We were performing it for an international peace conference, and this person got up from the audience and tried to stop the performance. He was subsequently thrown out of the conference for his bad behaviour, and then went on a vendetta to have our music irreversibly banned through the fatwa,” Lynne says.

“He was only one person, but I think he reflected a sentiment or potential in the mindset, because he couldn’t have achieved what he did, without sup port,” she says.

The fatwa forced them into an entirely new direction and made them even more passionate about their work. “We realised how important it is to break down the mindset and boundaries and illusions about our separateness. What it did, was effectively catapult our career into broadening our work, which has subsequently gained international recognition …and we have been all over the world.. as ambassadors for peace,” Lynne says.

Yusuf (manager and lead vocalist) was raised in the Sufi tradition in the age of apartheid. “I learnt lessons, the greatest of these was about the labeling of people and clinging to pseudo identities. Inside in the core of us, we all want the same. We all want happiness joy, peace, security, freedom of expression/creativity… this is why I became CEO of the Cape Town Festival, to promote cultural diversity,” he says.

“When I met Lynne, I realised the power music has as an international language for peace. We are peace ambassadors through music. Lynne has grown as a composer to be able to intertwine different languages into seamless orchestration that can tap into everyone’s psyche and remind us of where we came from.

“The music,” he says, “will take you back to the origins of who we are.”

Lynne says the original state of the soul is one of peace and love, and we can tap into it. “This is our true first nature and we are simply conditioned out of it.”

The couple comment on what they call the growing collective

awareness today that the systems we are living in, are not working.

“There’s more misery and sorrow than there’s ever been in the history of mankind so something has to happen – these systems are enslaving us – unless you can see or experience something else. Our music is allowing the listener to go into their own inner world. Music is the catalyst to open hearts and move people,” Yusuf says.

He says there was an understanding with indigenous people. “They understood the language of plants and animals and would enhance what was there. Today we break down what there is, instead of making it a paradise.”

Lynne says indigenous cultures who have had no contact with each other have created identical music.

“They could do this because they are reflecting the natural order in nature. When you go back to ancient languages it’s the same thing, the languages are reflecting the harmonic and mathematical perfection and divine perfection in nature,” she says. This is why she is singing in ancient languages, like Aramaic, and has recently started writing in Sumerian, creating a whole new body of work, in the language of the first culture.

She says the key to accessing profound wisdom is meditation. “Through this you access your inner garden, your archetypes, all aspects of your multi-dimensional soul. This beauty becomes a natural progression into the outer world: whether it is through art or music or advanced architecture or technology or city planning.”

She smiles at me. “Don’t listen to your mind, your critical conditioning… just go quiet. It’s that simple. It’s not attached to any culture or religion or conditioning, just go quiet for a little bit every day, and amazing things will happen.”

Yusuf says people confuse pleasure with happiness. He brings our meeting to an end with a Rumi quote: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

The couple’s CD Om Namah Shivaya is my first immersion in their music and it is honeyed bliss. Somehow the last two tracks have mesmerised me and I’ve not given the rest of the CD a chance. Yet. But I know every note of Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu and the title track.

And I recognise alchemy in music when I hear it.

Desert Rose is coming to the USA!  They will be performing at PEACE IN THE PARK in Central Park, NYC in June/July 2016.