Songs ancient and divine – the seventh volume of our acclaimed Spiritual Jazz series examines the influence and impact of Islam on four decades of jazz innovation.
Through Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, the civil rights era in America saw African American liberation politics famously associated with Islamic belief. This was not the first time that radical developments in African American cultural life had been widely and famously associated with Islam – that distinction belongs not to political or sporting giants, but to the progressive jazz musicians of the bebop generation. Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey, Sahib Shihab, Gigi Gryce, Idrees Sulieman, Ahmad Jamal, Yusef Lateef; all these legendary jazz pioneers – and countless more – were early converts to the spiritually charged Ahmadiyya school of Islam.
Their faith profoundly influenced the music that they made, and the presence of prominent and innovative Muslim musicians at the heart of jazz culture in America has been recognised ever since. The tracks on this collection follow the story of Islam and jazz from the 1950s to the 1980s. Recorded by Muslim jazz musicians, they often draw specifically on
Middle Eastern or Islamic music, dream of an esoteric or spiritual Afro-East, or invoke the landscape and sound worlds of Islamic Africa. Spiritual Jazz 7 presents a selection of visionary music – inspired by faith, powered by jazz.