Funded! This project was successfully funded on September 9, 2012.

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A visual journey exploring the sacred musical culture of Western Asia and its delicate relationship with Islam and the state.

UPDATE: We've reached our minimum target of 15k! Thank you everyone for your generous contributions! We are immensely grateful to all of you for your support! PLEASE KEEP SHARING THIS PAGE AND DONATING as 15k is really JUST enough to finish the film in a very low-budget DIY kind of way. We're continuing with our campaign in hopes of raising another 5k (making it 20,000) to hire an editing/story consultant and do a final sound mix at a professional studio. THANK YOU!

WAJD: Music, Politics & Ecstasy is a documentary about Arab-Ottoman music, its delicate relationship with Islam and the state, and its ability to invoke the experience of universal beauty. We have put our blood, sweat and tears into this project for over 2 years now, and shot over 70 hours of footage in Syria, Turkey, Europe and North America with top musicians, musicologists, spiritual teachers and young artists who are carrying this beautiful tradition into contemporary life. We've self-funded the documentary up until now, but that has only taken us so far.

We're now looking for post-production funds to finish the film, get it into festivals and out to you by early next year. We're determined to give this process our due diligence and to ensure that it's produced with the quality it deserves. It's also important to us to directly involve YOU as part of this new global community of creators/supporters. Thus far everything we've shot has only been possible because of the amazing people we've met who believe in this film. That's why we're now reaching out to you to join us on this journey and help make this film a reality. Please share this page with your friends and those you think can benefit from the beauty of this sacred art form. It's also your opportunity to preview footage, get an early digital download and to tell us what you think before the film is complete!

The story of Wajd traces Syrian-Canadian filmmaker Amar Chebib's journey along a path that many of us can relate to as he confronts feelings of spiritual and cultural alienation in search of connection and belonging.

In summer 2010, Amar went back to Damascus to connect with his roots by studying traditional Arab music. But what he found was much more than he was originally looking for. Through the friends and teachers he met along the way, he discovered that this music was heavily influenced by Ottoman classical music and deeply connected to the mystical tradition of Sufism - especially the Mevlevi Sufi Order, which descended from the celebrated Sufi poet and Islamic scholar Jalaluddin Rumi. He also quickly realized how controversial this subject is in the Arab world because of both nationalism and religious conservatism. Despite this, Amar continued exploring the music and the socio-political influences that shaped and suppressed its expression. As the filming and Amar's musical studies progressed, he found himself less of an outside observer and more an inside participant in this sacred musical tradition.

In late 2011, Amar went to Turkey to continue exploring the music he discovered the previous year. He instantly became enraptured by the beauty of the musical/spiritual culture of Istanbul. But even there, the musical tradition underwent years of suppression because of the Eurocentric-secular reforms undertaken during the formation of the Republic of Turkey. The state banned all the Sufi orders, along with Ottoman music, and attempted to purge the culture of its Arab-Persian/Islamic influences. To this day it is illegal to perform any Sufi activities in Turkey. Ironically, the government has since allowed the Mevlevi Whirling Ceremonies to take place for touristic purposes.

Fortunately, Amar discovered a new generation of musicians, artists and spiritual enthusiasts that were passionate about spreading this music and integrating it into an often skeptical and detached post-modern world. He journeyed with them, along with thousands of other pilgrims of love from around the world, down to Konya, the city where Rumi lived most of his life. It was there that he filmed and took part in the ecstatic late nights leading up to Sheb-i Arus, or Rumi's "wedding night to the Beloved", the commemoration of his passing into the infinite.

Amar has since returned to Vancouver where he continues to study music. He has also discovered - in his own backyard - a rich and diverse Sufi community that's become home. This journey has left Amar with a life transforming experience and beautiful story that he's inspired to share.

LOVE! ...well okay we need some money too.

We've just completed our production phase and now we need to edit the film! Here's an overview of our costs:

  • 3 Months of Video Editing:                      $6000
  • 1 Month of Sound Editing/Mixing:            $2000
  • Colour Correction:                                  $1500
  • Rights to Music/Archival Footage:           $2400
  • Translation/Transcription for Subtitles:     $800
  • Tape Mastering and Dubbing:                 $1000
  • Kickstarter + Amazon Payments Fees:    $1300

                                                TOTAL:     $15,000

This is a bare bones budget and the minimum amount that we need to complete post-production. If we exceed this total (fingers crossed!) we'll put the extra money towards hiring an editing/story consultant, a final studio sound mix, colour correction at a professional studio, and distribution/marketing costs.

Other Ways to Support the Film

If you're not in a place to offer financial support, you can still participate in bringing this film to the world. You can share this page on Facebook, Twitter, via e-mail, or blog about it. Of course talking about it with friends, family and other communities that you think would be interested in the music, politics or spiritual inspiration of this project can also be very helpful in spreading the word. We appreciate any form of support that you wish to give would love to hear your feedback on the film!

Wajd refers to the state of religious ecstasy experienced by Sufis during sacred rituals like zikr (invocation of God), sema (whirling) and, by the most advanced aspirants, as a continuous state of consciousness. The word itself comes from the Arabic tri-letter root wa-ja-da (to find) and is etymologically related to wujood (being). That's pretty cool when you consider that the ultimate goal of all Sufi practice is to dissolve one's nafs (individual ego) into wahdat al-wujood (the unity of all being). As Sufi teacher Kabir Helminski puts it in his interview for the film:

The one who finds (wajada) being (wujood), experiences ecstasy (wajd).

In this film I intend to address the ubiquitous negative stereotypes and attitudes towards Islam in the West, as well as the cultural regression that has taken place in parts of Western Asia (usually referred to as the “Middle East”) due to both Eurocentrism and the rise of conservative reductionist schools of Islamic thought. I believe Sufism and its music have much to offer both an overly secularized outlook that has lost touch with the sacred and a dogmatic belief structure that negates the importance of mysticism.

Given the current social, economic, political and environmental climate around the world, it has become apparent that much of the global crisis we are facing is the result of greed by a powerful few and the lack of interconnectivity of the mass population. One way that this is being countered today is technologically via the internet and social media. However the root of this problem is the dualistic “self and other” worldview that results in feelings of separateness, competition, and fear of survival. I am interested in the state of non-dualism that precedes this, where false notions such as “Occident/Orient” are recognized as such, and dissolved into the realm of the unity of all being, or wahdat al-wujood as Sufism describes it.

I believe all art hints at this state, whether implicitly or explicitly, by connecting us to the universal experience of beauty. However traditional sacred music is particularly capable of shifting our attention from the preoccupations of daily life to the contemplation and realization of being sustained by something greater than our own individuality. Using the narrative of my own journey, I seek to both challenge and charm the film’s audience into a greater appreciation of Islam’s fundamental principles of love and beauty through this music, ultimately inspiring awareness of a deep connection to the sacred.

Some of the incredible people in the film!

Mohammad Seifuttin Zein Al Abidin

A master of classical Ottoman-Mevlevi music, Islamic scholar and Amar's beloved oud teacher, "Sheikh Seif" grew up among the last dervishes of the Mevlevi Sufi lodge in Aleppo before its closure. Through his background and unquenchable thirst for knowledge, he became the most sought-after music teacher in Syria. Now retired, he continues to teach a small handful of students, stubbornly without payment.

Esin Chelebi

The 22nd generation great-granddaughter of Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, Esin Chelebi is the sister of the current official leader of the Mevlevi Sufi Order. For all practical purposes, she unofficially runs the Order under the non-profit International Mevlana Foundation, since institutional expression of Sufism is still illegal in Turkey.

Cemalnur Sargut

President of the Turkish Women's Cultural Association and a renowned Sufi teacher, Cemalnur grew up in a Sufi family but preferred to study western philosophy in her youth. A long bout of depression eventually led her into the Rifai Sufi lineage. She began teaching at the ripe age of 22, facing the challenges of a male-dominated society to become one of the most sought after Sufi teachers in the world.

Kudsi Erguner

A master of classical Ottoman-Mevlevi music, Neyzen (reed flute master), and internationally renowned recording artist, Kudsi grew up in Istanbul performing in illegal underground Sufi lodges. He comes from a long family line of Sufi musicians facing suppression from the previously anti-Islamic Turkish government. He was also among the first to perform abroad with the state-supported "Whirling Dervishes".

Alper Akcay

A young up-and-coming visual/performing artist from Istanbul, Alper has been studying and performing the ritual Mevlevi whirling ceremony and many other forms of sacred movement since his youth. He is part of a younger generation of Turkish artists who are integrating traditional knowledge into modern society. Alper is respected throughout the different Sufi circles in Turkey and has been an invaluable resource in opening doors to private ceremonies that have never been recorded.

Ibrahim Farajajé

A native of Berkeley, Ibrahim is a Sufi teacher in the Chishti lineage from India. He is also the provost and professor of cultural and Islamic studies at the Starr King School for the Ministry. His work challenges western stereotypes of Islam and conservative literalist interpretations of the Quran. He currently lives between Berkeley and Istanbul where he leads Sufi immersions for students from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds.

Kabir Helminski

Author and co-founder of the Threshold Society for Sufi learning, Kabir spent an extensive period of his life studying Sufism in Turkey and was the first westerner to be initiated as a Mevlevi Sheikh. He has since become a well-known Sufi teacher and translator of Rumi's poetry in North America. He currently travels and teaches worldwide and was recognized as one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.

Julien Jalaluddin Weiss

Born in Paris and originally trained as a classical guitarist, Julien moved to Aleppo, and began rigorously studying the qanoun (zither) after learning about Arab music in his mid-twenties. Almost 40 years later, he has converted to Islam, adopted the name "Jalaleddin" after Rumi, and is one of the most well-known qanoun players in the world. He now lives in Istanbul where, through his research, he seeks to retrieve a lost common ground of a sacred pan-Ottoman musical tradition.

Ali Jihad Racy

Musician, composer, ethnomusicologist, Director of UCLA Near Eastern Ensemble, and author of world-renowned book Making Music in the Arab World: The Culture and Artistry of Tarab, Jihad is an international heavyweight in both the Arab and world music scene. He is the world's foremost authority on the emotional-ecstatic phenomenon of tarab and has a deep knowledge of the Ottoman classical music heritage and how it interfaced with the Arab musical tradition.

Amar Chebib (Director/Producer/Camera/Editor)

Born in 1986 and raised throughout the Persian-Arabian Gulf, Syrian-Canadian filmmaker Amar Chebib grew up with a deep fascination in consciousness, culture, and the ability of film to convey the human experience. He graduated from the Vancouver Film School in 2006 and since then has worked on numerous projects. His last controversial short film “Mish Mush” shot in Damascus, received a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, was nominated for the Muhr Award for Excellence in Arab Cinema, won Best International Short Drama at Illinois and Rumschpringe International Film Festivals and was an official selection at many more. Amar is currently based in Vancouver, Canada where he continues to work with Dima (under their production company Salam Films) on socially, politically and spiritually conscious films. WAJD: Music, Politics & Ecstasy is his first feature-length documentary film.

Dima Alansari (Producer)

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, experienced Palestinian/Kuwaiti filmmaker Dima Alansari has trained in number of different art disciplines including dance, theatre and film. She obtained her BA in Communication Arts for Radio/TV/Film/Theatre from the Lebanese American University and a diploma from the New York Film Academy from King’s College London. She continued her studies with a Chevening Scholarship to obtain an MA in Feature Film from Goldsmith College, University of London. With over 10 years experience in the TV & film industry in Kuwait, Lebanon, Dubai, she was also the General Manager/Executive Producer for one of the leading film investment and production companies in the Arabian Gulf, Desert Door Productions. Dima has produced numerous projects, including the documentary ‘Storm from the South’, nominated for the Muhr Award for Excellence in Arab Cinema, and National Geographic's internationally acclaimed ‘Journey to Mecca’, an IMAX feature-length docudrama. Dima now lives and creates in Vancouver, Canada with her friend and business partner Amar, under their production company Salam Films.

Patricia Marcoccia (Associate Producer)

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Patricia's early and ongoing curiosity to understand the depths of humanity led her to complete a BHSc. in Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster University in 2007, followed by a Master of Journalism at Ryerson University in 2010. She has worked in the non-profit and social change sectors, including nearly two years as a producer at Agentic Digital Media. She participated in DOXA's Kris Anderson Connexions program for young women in documentary filmmaking in 2011 and spent several months in Palestine/Israel over the last three years exploring the notion of peacemaking. Patricia now lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Mohammad Gorjestani (Associate Producer)

Born in Iran and raised in California, Mohammad studied photography and philosophy before attending Vancouver Film School in 2006. His thesis film, Sayeh (The Shade), premiered at the 2007 Tribeca International Film Festival, was #1 Editor's pick on YouTube for May 2007, and screened at over 30 other international film festivals. He has since directed numerous short films, commercials, and music videos that have received international acclaim. He currently resides in the Bay Area where he is the Creative Director of MKSHFT/CLLCTV.

Nathaniel Huard (Assistant Camera / Sound)

A native of Quebec, Nathaniel studied Fine Art at Concordia University and has since explored many different art disciplines. His principle work is in nightscape photography, however he is also a talented musician. He travelled to Syria and Turkey with Amar to study music and help with production of the film. Nathaniel currently resides in Kelowna, BC where continues to play music and shoot night-photos of British Columbia's diverse landscapes

Atef Abdelkefi (Webmaster)

After spending most of his early years in Tunisia, Atef moved to Montreal, Quebec and studied Computer Science at the University of Quebec. He brings a solid ten years of work experience in web development and technical support for film, theatre and art programs including the Gulf Islands Film & Television School, Art Starts, urban ink and Peace it Together. Atef now lives in Vancouver where he runs Atef Design, an agency on the leading edge of scalable web solutions.

*Some footage from crowdfunding video used from Right Here All Over (Occupy Wall St) by Alex Mallis under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC 3.0)

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