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 video above.
A commercial recording of The Light is the Same will be released by Imani Winds soon. Stay tuned!
Audio guides for The Light is the Same are available here.
This piece was commissioned by Imani Winds. It was premiered on March 15, 2017 at the University of Kansas.
“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