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Unexpected Blessings

Kenduri Cinta edisi Februari 2023
Dok. Kenduri Cinta.

Friday 10 February saw this month’s edition of Kenduri Cinta take place again at the gathering’s main home ground of Taman Ismail Marzuki in Cikini, Jakarta. By mid-afternoon proceedings were in full swing to set up the stage and canopy in preparation for the evening, and an early sound check by Letto. By early evening the main road outside TIM was heaving as cars and motorbikes queued to enter, and hundreds of young people were milling about in couples and groups before going in.

Before Mbah Nun arrived at the venue shortly after 9pm a small shalawat band was playing, warming up the audience with devotional songs and music. Then Mbah Nun was suddenly there with Sabrang, moving from the behind the stage to take his place in the  center with Sabrang to his left. They were accompanied by Rocky Gerung, who has long know Mbah Nun and who is a intellectual, academic and public figure in his own right. A short exchange ensued between Mbah Nun and Rocky and they toyed briefly with the theme for this edition of Kenduri Cinta, “Ranjau: Min haitsu La Yahtasib”.

Before getting into a more serious discussion, Mbah Nun asked Sabrang and Letto to play. The jamaah were excited and sang along enthusiastically to two of their best known songs, Permintaan Hati and Ruang Rindu. Sabrang on vocals was accompanied by his fellow Letto band members on guitar and keyboards. There would be more later but the mood was already building intensely and there was a terrific sense of joy across the entire space. You could feel the positive charge of the atmosphere and you couldn’t help but be affected by it and feel the joy.

After Letto had played, Mbah Nun settled down to address the assembled jamaah. He talked about the nature of “ranjau” and of “accidents”, drawing parallels and allusions to recent political developments though without going into detail. Rocky Gerung would be much more direct and bold in his comments, revisiting the theme of “Firaun” that has been so controversial some few short weeks earlier and discussing the nature of power and values of democracy. In a later interjection he picked up a theme first raised by Mbah Nun on the devil – Iblis / and his conversations with and opposition to the other prophets. In doing so, Rocky referred to American jazz and blues singer Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman”…

Oh, sinnerman, where you gonna run to?
Sinnerman where you gonna run to?
Where you gonna run to?
All on that day
We got to run to the rock
Please hide me, I run to the rock
Please hide me, run to the rock
Please hide here
All on that day
But the rock cried out
I can’t hide you, the rock cried out
I can’t hide you, the rock cried out
I ain’t gonna hide you there
All on that day

Rocky described the frustrated search for refuge by the singer, seeking sanctuary from a rock, the devil, a river and the sea, without success. He quoted short verses and phrases from the Quran to the delight and surprise of the audience and succeeded in bringing out the context of the evening’s theme. I also offered some reflections on blessings that were not anticipated or expected, but which were suddenly apparent, relating that to my own discovery of Maiyah through the works of Mbah Nun and Kiai Kanjeng, and to the “treasure” I found in those works and my attendance of and involvement in Maiyah gatherings and tours, noting the role of God in guiding me to those things and in bringing us all together in Maiyah.

Everyone was pleased to see Kenduri Cinta regular Habib Anis Sholeh Baasyin arrive and take to the stage. He also made some short comments on the theme before mas Fahmi and friends opened up to the audience to take a series of three questions. The first was from a young woman attending Kenduri Cinta for the first time and recounting the loss of her father. She spoke bravely and beautifully.

The other two were well-put political questions, posed with passion and confidence and raising some laughs before being dealt with seriously by the panel.

A highlight of the evening and perhaps an “unexpected blessing” in and of itself was a half hour when Mbah led the jamaah in a hand clap and wirid sequence. Teasing the young but committed crowd, he had them playing out three distinct short hand clapping rhythms in sections, in turn, rehearsing and repeating all three in sequence until they were performed to his wishes. Then, he introduced some short wirid phrases to build a full set of verses, chanted in time to the percussive clapping.

Alhamdulillah… Wa syukrulillah…
Alhamdulillah… Wa syukrulillah…
Azka sholati wasalami Lirosulillah..
Azka sholati wasalami Lirosulillah…

Sholli wasallim ‘Alal mu’allim
Sholli wasallim ‘Alal mu’allim
Ahmad muhammad yasiidi khoirol bariyah…
Ahmad muhammad yasiidi khoirol bariyah…

Alhamdulillah… Wa syukrulillah…
Alhamdulillah… Wa syukrulillah…
Azka sholati wasalami Lirosulillah…
Azka sholati wasalami Lirosulillah…

Hadzihil madinah Fiha nabina
Hadzihil madinah Fiha nabina
Hu wa abu zahro yasiidi khoirol bariyah…
Hu wa abu zahro yasiidi khoirol bariyah…

Alhamdulillah… Wassyukrulillah…
Alhamdulillah… Wassyukrulillah…
Azka sholati wasalami Lirosulillah…
Azka sholati wasalami Lirosulillah

Mere words typed on a page cannot do justice to what was heard. It had to be experienced and communicated. It was powerful and beautiful and sounded spontaneous yet was intentional and well-constructed. The wirid lifted the mood and brought the entire assembly closer to God. And when Letto were ready to play two more songs, Sandaran Hati, Sebelum Cahaya, they were greeted with warmth and love. The audience was suddenly a sea of lights as smartphones were turned on and raised.

The evening proceeded with more discussion until at 1am Sabrang announced that it was time to close the event. Mbah Nun led the entire jamaah in the usual closing prayer and a pathway opened in the crowd for him to exit and leave, and he was gone as quickly and efficiently as he’d arrived.

This edition of Kenduri Cinta was over for another month but I think we all felt we’d received some “unexpected blessings” by being there.

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