For a lifetime spent scavenging the corners of world wide web for qawwali ,there’s no better reward than a live performance. I do realize there are thousands of wandering souls which could kill if not die reading about the extravaganza.
Delhi is an amazing city, especially in spring. It is musically alive and breathes for couple of months. All you need to enjoy all that is free and awesome is a friend with right kind of connections, a friend who is equally enthusiastic if not more about music. Well, a friend indeed is a friend in need.
Yesterday was another fine Saturday morning in Delhi with clear skies, the perfect weather for an outdoor musical concert in evening. Jashn-e-Khusrau, the ten day long musical festival ended a week ago. Artists from across sub continent performed in events that were spread across venues. It was probably the largest classical music event with great performances by Ustad Naseer-ud-Din Saami, Ustad Shujat Khan, Ustad Shahid Pervez Khan, Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan and Tahira Sayeed.
Sufi Kathak foundation held a symposium on qawwali with panel consisting of practitioner and experts early in morning (by all standards) at 10:00AM. It was a worthwhile experience listening to growth of artform, its components, speculating its future and criticizing the “modern capitalist sufi music.” So much for pledging to preserve the tradition that they decided to run an event parallel to Urs in Nazimuddin Dargah which everyone agreed is the center of art form. But who’s judging, at least not me till the qawwalis at two places didn’t overlap.
Wajahat Hussain Khan Badauni and his party performed three beautiful qawwalis in a rather short span of 45mins. It was nothing short of remarkable like Ustad Zaffer Hussain’s renditions. After all, what’s in the family stays in the family.
Next up were the qawwals from Punjab Pakistan Rizwann Muzaam who are related to Shehan Shah-e-Qawwali Ustad Nusrat Fathey Ali Khan. It was a pleasant change towards the Punjabi Ang of qawwali with dhaamal and verses of Baba Bulleh Shah. They are good in their own right. I felt Muzaam really tries to bring back the magic of Ustad Nusrat Fathey Ali Khan. The compositions were all same with some minor differences. Muzaam does a good job except in high notes, much like Faiz Ali Faiz qawwal.
Urs at Nizamuddin Dargah was a rather crowded affair with a loudspeaker system whose frequency range was very limited. I don’t get the point of performing qawwali with a single mic which filters out all the music and voice of accompanying singers. But there sure was the surprise of another qawwali group from Pakistan Najmuddin Saifuddin Brothers.
But not to worry if you have a friend indeed. A friend who has access to private mehfil in Nizamuddin basti that goes on till four in the morning. It would have certainly lasted an hour more if not for the all in hurry mehndi-bearded-maulana. Mohd. Warsi was not tired for a change, yay! I did realize he is hell of a performer (mood ki baat hai sab janab). If you are going to start with something as dynamic and enticing as “Sare Lamakan Se” you have all my ears. After this the phase of “I wish I knew Farsi” started. From whatever I could gather they sang a beautiful kalam of Hazrat Rumi and a couple of Khusrau’s.
Ifteqar qawwal did what do best, incite passion in hearts with poetry which is one of its kind. “I wish I knew Farsi” phase returned with a vengeance and lasted till the end. But the verses are half the story. I could comprehend the meaning in bits staring at faces which would occasionally break into reflections of immense joy and in bits from a few urdu words in between.
TLDR; sixteen hours, five Qawwals, only Delhi.
Edit: Fareed Ayaz Qawwal are in Delhi. I might not get to hear them but they are in Delhi.
Edit2: Fareed Ayaz Qawwal performed at Nizamuddin Dargah the next day. With about ten percent battery backup, the longest i could record was the opening qawwali.