Qawwali (Urdu/Persian: قوٌالی; Punjabi/Multani: ਖ਼ਵ੍ਵਾਲੀ, قوٌالی;
Brajbhasha/ Hindi: क़व्वाली) is a form of Sufi devotional musicpopular on the Indian subcontinent. It's a vibrant musical tradition that stretches back more than 700 years. Originally performed mainly at SunniSufi shrines throughout the subcontinent, it has also gained mainstream popularity.
Often listeners, and even artists themselves, are transported to a state of
wajad, a trance-like state where they feel at one with God, generally considered to be the height of spiritual ecstasy in Sufism.
Qawwali music received international exposure through the work of the late
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, largely due to several releases on the Real Worldlabel, followed by live appearances at WOMADfestivals. Although famous throughout the world, its economic and spiritual hub remains the Punjab province of Pakistanfrom where it gained entry into the mainstream commercial music industry and international fame.
The roots of Qawwali can be traced back to 8th century Persia (today's Iran and Afghanistan). During the first major migration from Persia, in the 11th century, the musical tradition of
Semamigrated to the Indian subcontinent, Turkey and Uzbekistan. Amir KhusroDehelvi of the Chistiorder of Sufis is credited with fusing the Persian and Indian musical traditions to create Qawwali as we know it today in the late 13th century in India( Hindustani classical musicis also attributed to him). The word "Sama" is often still used in Central Asia and Turkey to refer to forms very similar to Qawwali, and in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the formal name used for a session of Qawwali is "Mehfil-e-Sama".
Qaul (Arabic) is an "utterance (of the prophet)", Qawwāl is someone who often repeats (sings) a Qaul, Qawwāli is the style of singing of Qawwāls.
The songs which constitute the qawwali repertoire are mostly in
Urduand Punjabi (almost equally divided between the two), although there are several songs in Persian, Brajbhashaand Siraiki.cite web|url = http://www.dayafterindia.com/dec206/silver_screen1.html| title =
Bollywood Reinvents the Qawwali – With a Vengeance|publisher = The Day After: An International Illustrated Newsmagazine of India|accessdate = 2007-02-23] cite web|url = http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C09%5C22%5Cstory_22-9-2007_pg12_10| title = Delhi’s Qawwal Bachchon ka Gharana lights up Ramadan night at T2F|publisher = Daily Times: Leading News Resource of Pakistan|accessdate = 2007-02-23] There is also qawwali in some regional languages (e.g.,
Chhote Babu Qawwalsings in Bengali), but the regional language tradition is relatively obscure. Also, the sound of the regional language qawwali can be totally different from that of mainstream qawwali. This is certainly true of Chhote Babu Qawwal, whose sound is much closer to Baulmusic than to the qawwali of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, for example.
The poetry is implicitly understood to be spiritual in its meaning, even though the lyrics can sometimes sound wildly secular, or outright hedonistic. The central themes of qawwali are love, devotion and longing (of man for the Divine).
Qawwalis are classified by their content into several categories:
hamdis a song in praise of Allah. Traditionally, a qawwali performance starts with a hamd.
naatis a song in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. The opening hamd is traditionally followed by a naat.
manqabatis a song in praise of either Imam Alior one of the Sufi saints. Interestingly, manqabats in praise of Ali are sung at both Sunniand Shi'agatherings. If one is sung, it will follow right after the naat. There is usually at least one manqabat in a traditional programme.
marsiyais a lamentation over the death of much of Imam Husayn's family in the Battle of Karbala. Once again, this would typically be sung only at a Shi'aconcert.
ghazalis a song that sounds secular on the face of it. There are two extended metaphors that run through ghazals -- the joys of drinking and the agony of separation from the beloved. These songs feature exquisite poetry, and can certainly be taken at face value, and enjoyed at that level. In fact, in India and Pakistan, ghazal is also a separate, distinct musical genre in which many of the same songs are performed in a different musical style, and in a secular context. In the context of that genre, the songs are usually taken at face value, and no deeper meaning is necessarily implied. But in the context of qawwali, these songs of intoxication and yearning use secular metaphors to poignantly express the soul's longing for union with the Divine, and its joy in loving the Divine. In the songs of intoxication, "wine" represents "knowledge of the Divine", the "cupbearer" (saaqi) is God or a spiritual guide, the "tavern" is the metaphorical place where the soul may (or may not) be fortunate enough to attain spiritual enlightenment. (The "tavern" is emphatically not a conventional house of worship. Rather, it is taken to be the "spiritual context" within which the soul exists.) Intoxication is attaining spiritual knowledge, or being filled with the joy of loving the Divine. In the songs of yearning, the soul, having been abandoned in this world by that cruel and cavalier lover, God, sings of the agony of separation, and the depth of its yearning for reunion.
kafiis a song in Punjabi, which is in the unique style of poets such as Shah Hussain and Baba Bulleh Shah. Two of the more popular Kafis include "Ni Main Jana Jogi De Naal" and "Mera Piya Ghar Aaya".
munadjaatis a song where the singer displays his thanks to Allah through a variety of linguistic techniques. It is often sung in Persian, with Mawlana Jalāl-ad-Dīn Rumi credited as its inventor.
Composition of a qawwali party
A group of qawwali musicians, called a "party", typically consists of eight or nine men — women are, for all intents and purposes, excluded from traditional Muslim music as respectable women are traditionally prohibited from singing in the presence of men, though these traditions are changing — including a lead singer, one or two side singers, one or two
harmoniums (which may be played by lead singer, side singer or someone else), and percussion. If there is only one percussionist, he plays the tablaand dholak, usually the tabla with the left hand and the dholak with the right. Often there will be two percussionists, in which case one might play the tabla and the other the dholak. There is also a chorus of four or five men who repeat key verses, and who aid and abet percussion by hand-clapping.
The performers sit in two rows — the lead singer, side singers and harmonium players in the front row, and the chorus and percussionists in the back row.
Before the fairly recent introduction of the harmonium, qawwalis were usually accompanied by the
sarangi. The sarangi had to be retuned between songs; the harmonium didn't, and was soon preferred.
Songs are usually between 15 to 30 minutes long. However, the longest commercially released qawwali runs slightly over 115 minutes (Hashr Ke Roz Yeh Poochhunga by Aziz Mian Qawwal). The qawwali maestro
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khanhas at least two songs that are more than 60 minutes long.
Qawwalis tend to begin gently and build steadily to a very high energy level in order to induce hypnotic states both among the musicians and within the audience. Songs are usually arranged as follows:
# They start with an instrumental prelude where the main melody is played on the harmonium, accompanied by the tabla, and which may include improvised variations of the melody.
# Then comes the
alap, a long tonal improvised melody during which the singers intone different long notes, in the raag of the song to be played.
# The lead singer begins to sing some preamble verses which are typically not part of the main song, although thematically related to it. These are sung unrhythmically, improvised following the raag, and accompanied only by the harmonium. After the lead singer sings a verse, one of the side singers will repeat the verse, perhaps with his own improvisation. A few or many verses will be sung in this way, leading into the main song.
# As the main song begins, the tabla, dholak and clapping begin. All members join in the singing of the verses that constitute the refrain. Normally neither the lyrics of the main verses nor the melodies that go with them are improvised; in fact, these are often traditional songs sung by many groups, especially within the same lineage. As the song proceeds, the lead singer or one of the side singers may break out into an alap.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khanalso popularized the interjection of sargam singing at this point. The song usually builds in tempo and passion, with each singer trying to outdo the other in terms of vocal acrobatics. Some singers may do long periods of sargam improvisation, especially alternating improvisations with a student singer. The songs usually end suddenly.
The singing style of qawwali is different from Western singing styles in many ways. For example, in words beginning with an "m", Western singers are apt to stress the vowel following the "m" rather than the "m" itself, whereas in qawwali, the "m" will usually be held, producing a muted tone. Also in qawwali, there is no distinction between what is known as the
chest voiceand the neck voice(the different areas that sound will resonate in depending on the frequency sung). Rather, qawwals sing very loudly and forcefully, which allows them to extend their chest voice to much higher frequencies than those used in Western singing, even though this usually causes a more noisy or strained sound than would be acceptable in the West.
Singing Order in Chistiya
* Instrumental: This is supposed to be the announcement of the arrival of Khawaja
Moinuddin Chishti's, as Sufi believes their saints are free of time-space. Also that Nabi, Siddique, Shaheed, and Salehcategory of faithfuls are never dead, just gone into some other state from where they visit whenever they are mentioned, especially if there is a function in their honor.
* Manqabat Ghous: Praise of Shaikh
Abdul Qadir Jelani
* Manqabat Khwaja: Praise of Khwaja
* Manqabat Shaikh: Praise of the Shaikh/Pir if it is his anniversary
* Rang or Badhawa: If it is the death anniversary of the Pir, then it is usually Rang, a poem by
Amir Khusro. If it is the Shaikh's birthday, it is usually the Badhawa.
Legendary Qawwals of the Past
Aziz Ahmed Warsi
* Aziz Mian Qawwal
* Badar Miandad
* Bahauddin Qutbuddin
* Fateh Ali Khan
Jafar Husain Khan Badauni
Mubarak Ali Khan
Muhammed Saeed Chishti
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Well-known Qawwals of Today
Bakshi Javed Salamat
Chhote Aziz Nazan
Faiz Ali Faiz
Ghulam Sabir Nizami and Ghulam Waris Nizami
Mehr Ali Sher Ali
Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Sher Miandad Khan
Waheed and Naveed Chishti
Music of Pakistan
Music of India
* [http://www.osa.co.uk/qawwali_history.html "Origin and History of the Qawwali"] ,
Adam Nayyar, Lok Virsa Research Centre, Islamabad. 1988.
* [http://www.nusratforever.com/ Fan site of the Legend of Qawwali, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan]
* [http://www.haqaonline.com/multimedia/audio/Qawwalli/ Qawwali songs in Punjabi and Urdu to stream (Windows Media Player and Realplayer) or download (MP3 format)]
* [http://chandrakantha.com/articles/indian_music/kawali.html QAWWALI PAGE Islamic Devotional Music] by David Courtney, Ph.D.
* [http://www.streetphotos.net/blog Blog with a large selection of Urdu/Hindi Sufi inspired poetry including qawwali translations and transliterations]
* [http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/nusratfatehalikhannfakclub Yahoo discussion group dedicated to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Qawwali] (includes photographs, lyrics, translations, song lists)
* [http://www.qawwal.com/ Munshi Raziuddin and Fareed Ayaz Qawwal] (Self-promotional site)
* [http://www.red-lines.co.uk/utterance/ Site dedicated to Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali]
* [http://www.documen.tv/asset/Music_of_Pakistan.html Documentary: Music of Pakistan (52 min.)]
* [http://www.pakizm.com/nusrat Qawwali lyrics with few translations] (Nusrat, Sabri, Aziz Mian, Rizwan Muazzam, Abida, Fareed Ayaz, and more)
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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