'Your spirit is mingled with my spirit, as amber is mingled with perfumed musk.'
Mansur al Hallâj
Sheikh Yasin declaims the great Sufi poets. In a theatrical way, he searches for harmony through suffering, a suffering that is heard in his voice, broken with the emotion of a thousand sleepless nights. He uses his voice to accentuate words torn from another Islam. This is the Islam of the streets,the villages, the gallabiyas and the shisha; the last bastion of the poetry of the people of the Nile.
In his singing, the mythical 'habibi' (darling) of Egyptian song becomes a repeated incantation. The Sufi breath meanders between life, death, rebirth, hope and despair.
In the songs of this munshid (singer of poetry), there is the idea of something unfinished. In his way of fashioning a word or a rhyme, Sheikh Yasin seems to lose himself in a labyrinth that makes him an eternal pilgrim in his poetry.
Sheikh Yasîn al-Tuhâmi is unquestionably the most important Sufi munshid in Egypt today. Born in 1948 Yawata, a village community near Assiut, Sheikh Yasin had a traditional religious education learning Koranic recitation, the religious sciences and classical Arabic, all subjects that would enhance his career. As no family member had ever been a munshid and there was no opportunity for him to learn the inshad at school, he therefore learned this art in his own way, by listening in at local Sufi gatherings. He was also influenced by famous munshidin he heard on the radio, as well as Koranic singing and the great stars of Arab music such as Nasr al-Din Tubar, Mustafa Isma’il and above all, Umm Kalsoum.
Today Sheikh Tuhâmi is booked months in advance with more than 100 cassettes and CDs on the market, and a large number of private recordings on video and audio circulate among his fans. From his home in the charming small vilage of Hawatka near Assiut, he travels across Egypt for more than 200 nights every year, visiting Sufi gatherings from Aswan to Alexandria. His innovative style, his performance and his success have spawned many imitators that form a veritable madrassa (school) based in the middle of Egypt and radiating his influence out across the country.