‘Qawwali is a celebration of love’

July 10, 2017

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Ghayoor-Moiz-Mustafa Qawwal perform at Napa on Sunday.—White Star
Ghayoor-Moiz-Mustafa Qawwal perform at Napa on Sunday.—White Star

KARACHI: Thriving for almost 32 centuries, the rich historical tradition of Qawwali was the topic of a workshop at the National Academy of Performing Arts on Sunday. From Vedic chants to becoming a devotional practice of zikr, the oral tradition was discussed in great detail by speaker Ally Adnan.

“Qawwali is a celebration of love, nothing more, nothing less,” began Adnan. “Qawwali can be but is not always about God. It can be but is not always about religion. It is, however, always about love.”

Despite having already existed for centuries, Adnan explained how this music form found popularity in South Asia owing to musicians, ascetics, clerics, mystics and philosophers, but more importantly scholars and Sufi saints moving to the region from neighbouring countries.

Qawwali spread within the entire Hindustan, and also to countries such as Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey. However, the style varied from region to region and there were no established rules, basics or forms. Qawwali evolved over centuries and from being a loose musical genre it began to adhere to strict rules and regulations, credit for which goes to Amir Khusrau.

“The form of Qawwali that has been practised since the 13th century was created by Hazrat Amir Khusrau who defined the requirements and rules for its performance and established a number of forms of Qawwali. He also taught us how to listen to Qawwali.”

As part of his journey for the propagation of Qawwali, Amir Khusrau also trained a group of 12 young musicians in this art form who became known as the Qawaal Bachchay, with Miyaan Saamat Bin Ibrahim as the leader of the group.

The workshop was further enriched by demonstrative performances by Ghayoor-Moiz-Mustafa Qawwal, who are direct descendants of Miyaan Saamat Bin Ibrahim, and represent the 28th generation of the very first Khusravi qawwal. Strict purists, the Qawwali that they perform is claimed to be the same as the one practised more than 800 years ago.

Ally Adnan also spoke in detail about some of the basic components of Qawwali. He explained how a raag in Qawwali is a “sequence of music notes upon which a melody is constructed subject to certain rules. Qawwali is always performed in adherence to the rules of raag and taal as it observes the tenets of Hindustani sangeet.”

Ustad Nafees Khan spoke about how the workshop would open the doors to more debate and discourse on the performing arts at Napa, and in particular for music.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2017