Fri, 26 April 19
Released 28 June 1999
Qawwali, an Arabic word meaning “utterance”, is the devotional music of the Sufis of Pakistan and India, the mystics of the Islamic religion. The term includes both the medium and its performance, and has been a dominant feature of Islamic culture since the 12th century.
It was the energetic recordings and concerts of the late, great artist, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1948-1997) which first introduced Qawwali music to Western audiences. His singing effortlessly transcended language and cultural barriers, and his spirit reached and moved people all over the world. Today, Qawwali is seen as one of the world’s most passionate and vibrant forms of music.
Pakistan’s fresh young ensemble, Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali, though still in their teens, are already proving to be masters of this Sufi devotional music. The two young brothers who lead the group, Rizwan Mujahid Ali Khan and Muazzam Mujahid Ali Khan, have an impeccable musical pedigree— their grandfather was an uncle of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and personally taught Nusrat the art of Qawwali singing.
These nephews of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, then, come from a direct family line of Qawwali vocal music that spans over five centuries. Their inventive reinterpretations of spiritual love songs based upon classical Islamic and Sufi texts was first showcased in the UK in July 1998, at the WOMAD Festival in Reading, and received much critical acclaim.
Performers of Qawwali believe that they have a religious mission: to evoke the name of Allah in a quest for total transcendence. They use music as a vehicle to enlightenment or inner knowledge —via rhythmic handclapping, percussion, harmonium and a vast repertoire of sung poetry. By repeatedly chanting salient phrases, they transport audiences to a spiritual nirvana or trance-like state.
Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali is made up of two lead singers (Rizwan and Muazzam), five secondary singers leading the choral response and vigorous hand claps, two harmonium players and a tabla player. They perform in traditional Qawwali style —sitting on the ground rather than on seats— which they believe brings them closer to God.
A song will usually begin with a slow instrumental vamp that introduces the melody. The lead singer then meanders in with the first line and establishes a call-and-response pattern. Phrases are repeated over and over again, punctuated by sudden and furious breaks of florid virtuoso singing by the leader. As the piece progresses the tempo and volume are gradually increased, elevating the listeners to higher and higher states of entrancement. Traditionally, women are forbidden to sing Qawwali.
The original Qawwali repertoire of Farsi (Persian), Punjabi, and Braj Bhasha (an old form of Hindi) has given way in recent times to Urdu and Arabic. Romantic love is used as a metaphor for spiritual adoration and mystical enlightenment, drawing upon a rich vein of poetic imagery. It is not surprising, therefore, that Qawwali has become the staple of Bollywood film scores.
Sacrifice to Love is Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali’s debut album on Real World Records. Produced by John Leckie, it features four of their own compositions: a ‘hamd’ —a song in praise of Allah; a ‘manqabat’ —a song in praise of a great Sufi saint; a ‘naat’ —a song in praise of Prophet Mohammed; and a ‘ghazal’ —a love song with contemporary lyrics. The group’s passion for this venerable and transcendent genre is unmistakeable.
The tradition carries on.
You are great and wonderful. You are the God of the whole universe. God, you are kind and merciful and for that I love you very much. You have control over life and death. You are the only one and there is no other God but you. You are in everything and everywhere, and everybody is in search of you. You own the whole universe. This land and sky, everything is yours. Anybody who remembers you and recites your name wholeheartedly gains great respect in the world. Like Bilal, who became Muslim and gained unique status just because he accepted your message and followed it. The day that Bilal does not say Azan for the early morning prayer, daylight does not appear. Seeing these things makes one believe in your existence.
This song refers to the great Sufi Saint known as Baba Farid Shakar Gunj; Sabir is his disciple and nephew.
O beloved one of the great Saint Khawaja Qutab. Please bless me for being poor and may you live long. There is a chance that I may be blessed at your shrine and I am standing here begging. Please bless me. I have been dedicated to you since birth. Please protect my honour and long live your shrine. Baba Farid, you are a great saint of this time and I am begging and crying. Please bless me. You are my everything, you are closer to God.
I am the dust of the street of Mohammed and I am captive within his auspicious tress. I am forever reciting the prayer of his affection, as if his charming countenance is my Holy Kaaba. I sacrifice my freedom and my whole self for him. He is like a cypress, gracious in stature, and I go in quest of him. The people of the world are absorbed with thoughts of the 27th night of Ramadan —the night of Koranic revelation. But the truth is that all are entangled in the auspicious curly tuft of Mohammed.
Sometimes in life you fall in love with a person who is very faithless or ungrateful, but after all they are still your friend. So what if they are cautious —even a rose has its thorns. When they do not come at night as promised, then you want to die.
Nobody dies from being separated from their beloved ones, but I still pray that God may never separate people from each other —it is painful.
Released 02 March 2004
Released 05 June 1989
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