Day of Colours

Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali

Released 02 March 2004

  1. Light Of My Life (Sayyedo-Sarwer Muhammed)
  2. Sweet Flute (Morey-Makhdoom-Sabir)
  3. One And Only One (Ik-Machaeya-Shore)
  4. Life And Soul (Qalandar Lal Lajpaal)
  5. Lost My Love (Ub-Ho-Gea-Hay)
  6. In The Name Of Love (Sub. Hasratoon-Ka)
  7. Day Of Colours (Rang)

Liner notes

When the unforgettable qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan died in Pakistan in 1997, he left a musical vacuum into which stepped his two teenage nephews. Despite their extreme youth, they were determined that their group Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali should continue their uncle’s pioneering efforts to transcend cultural, language and religious barriers and to bring to the world the devotional but vibrant Qawwali vocal music of the Sufi mystics of the Islam religion.

When the unforgettable qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan died in Pakistan in 1997, he left a musical vacuum into which stepped his two teenage nephews. Despite their extreme youth, they were determined that their group Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali should continue their uncle’s pioneering efforts to transcend cultural, language and religious barriers and to bring to the world the devotional but vibrant Qawwali vocal music of the Sufi mystics of the Islam religion.

Now in their mid-20s, there is a new-found maturity in their voices and a profundity in their approach that not only maintains and furthers a family tradition but develops their own identity as singers and breathes fresh life into a centuries-old style that has today become one of the glories of modern world music.

The music is steeped in Sufi tradition. But none of the lyrics on Day Of Colours have ever been recorded before. Some of them are modern. But some of the poetry is 800 years old. All are love songs in praise of the Beloved and were specifically chosen for their message of harmony and understanding.

"There's a very anti-Islamic feeling in some quarters at the moment and we felt we needed to make an album that showed a centuries-old tradition of Islam that never had a message of killing or hatred or any form of negativity. We wanted a record that delivered a traditional qawwali message of harmonisation and peace." Rashid Din, Manager, Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali

The two brothers who lead and lend their name to the group, Rizwan Mujahid Ali Khan and Muazzam Mujahid Ali Khan, come from a direct line of qawwali singers that can trace its family pedigree back over five centuries. Their grandfather was an uncle of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and taught Nusrat the art of qawwali vocal music. They themselves studied under their father, who died in 1996, and were then tutored by Nusrat.

The word qawwali simply means ‘utterance’ and the music and style of performance it describes has been a feature of Islamic culture since the 12th century. It is religious music that uses the human voice as a vehicle to enlightenment by evoking the name of the Beloved in a quest for transcendence.

The two lead singers, Rizwan and Muazzam, lead five back-up singers and in their call-and-response patterns, key phrases are repeatedly chanted to the accompaniment of rhythmic handclapping, percussion and harmonium. The lead singer adds elaborate vocal lines and the tempo and volume are gradually increased as the piece progresses to a heightened trance-like state.

For centuries qawwali was song solely in a religious context at the shrines of the great Sufi saints. The broadening of its appeal is very much a family innovation – it was Nusrat’s father and uncle who first introduced qawwali singing at social events. To the performers, ‘the Beloved’ addressed in the songs is invariably Allah or a Sufi saint. But romantic love is used as a metaphor for spiritual adoration.

“They are all love songs in praise of the deity, but the Beloved is really whoever you follow,” Rashid Din explains. “The beloved can be anyone, which is why qawwali music has found such a resonance around the world beyond Islamic communities. It transcends language and speaks to the human soul.”

“Qawwali is a precious thing that has stood the test of time. The songs connect to the human spirit and freshen the human soul. It’s main message is love and the aim of this record is to spread peace and understanding.”

Rizwan Mujahid Ali Khan

The broadening of qawwali’s appeal was central to Nusrat’s mission and it is an approach shared by Rizwan-Muazzam. Their debut album Sacrifice To Love, released on Real World in 1999, was an entirely traditional album. So was its 2001 follow-up, A Better Destiny. But they have also released a remix fusion album with Temple Of Sound. “We’ll collaborate with anyone if it is done well and expands the appeal and understanding of qawwali,” Muazzam says.

Day of Colours finds them returning to the purity of the qawwali tradition with stunning results. Recorded in four days in a tiny studio in Lahore, the passion is palpable. Performed in Persian, Urdu and Punjabi, the songs are both ancient and modern.

‘Light Of My Life/Sayyedo-Sarwer Muhammed’ was written by the 13th century Persian poet and mystic, Rumi. ‘One and Only One/Ik-Machaeya-Shore’ was composed by the Sufi saint Baba Bulleh Shah and is also centuries old. So, too, is ‘Lost In Love/Ub-Ho-Gea-Hay’, written by Khawaja Muhammad Devaan, the Sufi saint followed by Nusrat and his entire family, including Rizwan and Muazzam.

On the other hand, ‘Life and Soul/ Qalandar Lal Lajpaal’ and ‘In The Name Of Love/ Sub Hasratoon-Ka’ have contemporary lyrics that work both as songs of spiritual devotion and expressions of secular love. The album concludes with the ecstatic title track, which boasts another ancient but previously unrecorded lyric by the Sufi master Hazrat Amir Khusrau, a 13th century poet and composer who is credited with inventing the sitar and tabla and is also regarded as the father of the Indian raga. It is the most important piece on the album and is traditionally sung at the end of every qawwali session and marks the moment when performers and audience believe the Beloved is present.

Qawwali is a precious thing that has stood the test of time,” Rizwan says. “The songs connect to the human spirit and freshen the human soul. It’s main message is love and the aim of this record is to spread peace and understanding.

We know that no one can emulate Nusrat,” Muazzam adds. “We just want to carry on where he left off and God willing, we can take the craft forward.

The spirit lives on.

Listen

Reviews

  • The way the 15-strong chorus drive each other to ever more impassioned heights - the solo voices soaring dizzyingly overhead - is a kind of trick, designed to take your spirit Godward, whether you like it or not. And when it's executed with this degree of artistry and commitment, it's difficult to imagine that it could ever be improved upon. The Daily Telegraph

Further Listening

  • A Better Destiny

    Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali

    Released 23 July 2001

    Proud torchbearers of Sufi devotional music following in the footsteps of their late great uncle, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The two brothers return with ripened, masterly robust voices and sing of romantic love and alcoholic intoxication - metaphors for spiritual adoration and mystical enlightenment.
  • Night Song

    Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook

    Released 01 March 1996

    The potent relationship between Qawwali legend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Canadian rock musician Michael Brook reached compelling emotional heights on this Grammy nominated sequel to Mustt Mustt. Once again the partnership tests the emotional boundaries of the human voice. It wasn't made in Detroit or Memphis, but this truly is soul music.

More content

Sad to say goodbye to Ray Cooper

Virgin Records executive Ray Cooper died on 28th July. He was a great champion of alternative music.

Totó la Momposina receives La Mar de Músicas 2018 Award

The singer was honoured during a special concert with guest performers Djanka Diabaté and Yungchen...

8 things you have to try at this year’s WOMAD Festival

From gong baths to a social network of hammocks, find out about the things you can't leave WOMAD wit...

10 Years of Society of Sound

It’s some legacy: Ten years’ worth of outstanding music. Sounds good, right? Actually, it sounds...