Sacrifice to Love

Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali

Released 28 June 1999

  1. Allah Ho Ya Rehman / God Is Great And Merciful
  2. Sabir Ki Jay Ho / Long Live Sabir
  3. Manum Khak E Sarey / I Am The Dust Of The Street Of Mohammed
  4. Pyar Hota Hay / Falling In Love

Liner notes

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.

Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali. Photo credit: Stuart Bruce

About the Music

1. ALLAH HOO YA REHMAN / God is Great and Merciful

A ‘hamd’ – a song in praise of Allah.

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.

 

2. SABIR KI JAY HO / Long Live Sabir

A ‘manqabat’ – a song in praise of a great Sufi saint.


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.

 

3. MANUM KHAK E SAREY / I am the Dust of the Street of Mohammed

A ‘naat’ – a song in praise of Prophet Mohammed, Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH).

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.

 

4. PYAR HOTA HATY / Falling in Love

A ‘ghazal’ – a love song with contemporary lyrics.

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.

Family Tree

Reviews

  • They are bravely experimental The Guardian (UK)
  • ‘Although their style is –understandably– closely modelled on that of their uncle, it nevertheless carries a distinct identity of its own, most evident through a kind of raw energy that comes with youth. This album is without doubt one of the best performances of qawwali I have heard since Nusrat died.’ Songlines (UK)
  • Clearly they have inherited much of his [Nusrat’'s] mastery.’ The Times (UK)
  • Breathtaking a riot of devotional drumming and chanting, ascending over ten minutes to a transcendent crescendo.’ Time Out (UK)
  • ‘This 11-piece group, which performs sitting down, will make your spine tingle as it builds an irresistible momentum.’ The Seattle Times (USA)

Listen

Credits

The Musicians:Rizwan Mujahid Ali Khan: lead vocals • Muazzam Mujahid Ali Khan: lead vocals Rahat Ali Khan: lead harmonium • Mushtaq Ahmed: second harmonium •
 Zafar Ali Khan: tablas • Asif Maqbool Chishti: side singer • 
M Aurangzaib Mujahid Ali Khan: chorus singer • Ghulam Mustafa: chorus singer • Javaid Miandad: chorus singer • Fazal Miran: chorus singer

All songs traditional, arranged by Rizwan Mujahid Ali Khan and Muazzam Mujahid Ali Khan.

Produced by John Leckie. Recorded at Real World Studios, Wiltshire, UK during the Real World Recording Week, July 1998. Engineered by Stuart Bruce, assisted by Jacques Obadia.

A Real World Design. Graphic design by Anna-Karin Sundin. Photographs of Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali by Vince Goodsell (booklet) and Stuart Bruce (back inlay). Sleeve notes by Rashid Ahmad Din. Persian calligraphy by Ahmad Din.

All tracks published by WOMAD Music Ltd/ EMI Virgin Music Ltd.

Special thanks to Thomas Brooman, Phil Clarke, all the staff at WOMAD, and S S Talib.

Further Listening

  • Day of Colours

    Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali

    Released 02 March 2004

    Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali come into their own with 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.
  • Shahen Shah

    Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

    Released 05 June 1989

    The emotional intensity and soaring power of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s voice transcends all boundaries of language and religion, and has popularised Sufi music beyond Muslim peoples to audiences worldwide. Amongst Real World Records’ most emblematic artists, Nusrat was known as Shahen-Shah-e-Qawwali: The Brightest Shining Star in Qawwali.

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