Religions are many
But God is one
The lamps may be different
But the Light is the same
Like many people, I spent the last half of 2016 trying to make sense of what was happening in our country and in our world. In my search for texts for my oratorio, This Love Between Us, which I was writing concurrently, I came across these wise words from the 13th century Sufi mystic poet, Rumi. He states so beautifully that, even if our methods for searching for meaning and happiness look very different, the things we seek are so similar.
This piece uses two Hindustani raags: Vachaspati and Yaman. The bhav, the aesthetic of these raags are so different: Vachaspati isdark, brooding, complex and dense. Yaman is light and innocent. And yet, practically speaking, only one note is different between them. The melodies they generate and the way they move makes them feel worlds apart, and yet their notes are almost exactly thesame. The piece begins in Vachaspati, in desolate, spare melodic lines. Slowly, as Yaman peeks through the dense harmonies, thetwo raags begin to weave together into a seamless composite.
See above for the trio recording
Imani Winds released the original version of The Light is the Same on their GRAMMY-nomianted album BRUITS in 2021.
Audio guides for the original quintet version of The Light is the Same are available here. Please note that while the scoring may be different, the music is the same (🤣).
This piece was commissioned by Imani Winds. It was premiered on March 15, 2017 at the University of Kansas. This trio version was commissioned by Aglow Trio (Karen Large, flute; Alyssa Morris, oboe; Amanda Arrington, piano)
“Especially compelling was “The Light Is the Same” by the Indian-American composer Reena Esmail. She took as her inspiration lines of the 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi: “Religions are many/ But God is one/ The lamps may be different/ But the light is the same.” With highly ornamented lines reminiscent of Hindustani singing, Esmail wove textures that seemed like the musical equivalent of translucent silk, rustling in a gentle breeze.” – The Washington Post
“The piece had a very calming and cool approach — relaxed, with the smooth sounds of the five instruments melding into one ensemble. At times the piece would pick up, but it seemed to always return to a calm and smooth pace.” – The University Daily Kansan
“Esmail’s piece — its title inspired by a Rumi poem’s observation that in a world of many religions “the lamps may be different, but the light is the same” — gorgeously intertwines two contrasting Hindustani ragas. One dark and the other light, their sounds flowingly inhabit the same space before coming together in a blissful dance.” — New York Times
“Even without words, Reena Esmail transforms the wind quintet medium into a gentle paean to diversity in The Light is the Same (composed as a companion piece for her quintet arrangement of The Planets).The Rumi-inspired title reaffirms Esmail’s musical strategy of interweaving a pair of highly contrasting Hindustani ragas into a serene new whole.” Gramophone UK