Ahead of our UK tour with Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali, Soni Kaur, Asian Arts Agency’s Marketing and Events Assistant, brings you a brief introduction Qawwali – this incredible style of music.
What is Qawwali music?
Qawwali is a form of music performed by Sufis to stimulate religious devotion and a sense of spiritual closeness to God. Several Qawwali songs praise religious teachers and saints. However, much of the music speaks of spiritual and worldly love. The lyricism of Qawwali music uses the ghazal form of Islamic poetry as well as numerous hymn forms.
Where does Qawwali music originate?
The origins of Qawwali can be traced back to 8th century Persia but it was during the first major migration from Persia in the 11th century that the musical tradition sama, meaning spiritual concert or listening, migrated to the Indian subcontinent, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
What language is Qawwali music sung in?
Qawwali songs are mostly performed in Panjabi and Urdu, due to its main migration into South Asia. However, there are many other countries, regional languages and dialects in which the compelling music is sung such as Farsi, Brajbhasha and Hindi. This long standing fusion between Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Indian music tradition has been popularised in the 20th century, rightfully making it a prominent genre of music.
What instrumentation does a traditional Qawwali line up include?
Performed by a group known as qawwals, led by one or two solo singers, the group use traditional instruments such as the harmonium, tabla, dholak and sarangi. Hand clapping from the audience also emphasises the rhythmic structure.
What can one expect from a live Qawwali concert experience?
Qawwali is designed to be a communal experience; with the group sitting together on the floor creating an entrancing sound. A mystic combination of poetry and religious phrases sung through repetition, improvisation and variation creates a hypnotic feel.
A spiritual atmosphere is created through the entrancing vocals and hypnotic rhythm, often taking audience members on a journey and leaving them with a feeling of ecstasy. Audience participation is highly encouraged in order to truly experience the traditional intimacy of Qawwali music.
I’m new to Qawwali – where do I start?
There are many fantastic Qawwali albums and singles out there to choose from; here are some of the best traditional Qawwali as well as some exciting fusions suggested by Songlines magazine:
01: Faiz Ali Faiz – Your Love Makes Me Dance
02: Faiz Ali Faiz, Duquende, Miguel Poveda & Chicuelo – Qawwali Flamenco
03: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – The King of Sufi Qawwali
04: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Mustt Mustt
05: Rizwan- Muazzam Qawwali – Day of Colours
06: Amjad Sabri – Ecstasy of the Soul
07: The Sabri Brothers – Qawwali Masterworks
08: Shye Ben Tzur & Jonny Greenwood – Junun
09: Various Artists – Flight of the Soul
10: Various Artists – Sufis at the Cinema