Qawwali: Pakistan's treasure

culture   Mar 22, 2020

Pakistan is a country that boasts of an exquisite mix of cultures that are now admired and studied world over. Among these cultures is Sufism, a way of life that gave rise to qawwali – a form of music that is respected all over the world. 

Unfortunately, today’s youth does  not recognise Pakistan’s treasure. Instead, they are carrying ‘the white man’s burden’ and turning to genres such as hip hop and rock, while shunning great music created by Pakistani’s. 

Will this effect of colonialism last forever? Will the millennials give Pakistan’s wonderful qawwali a chance? 

Here’s a little introduction on what this form of music is all about and why it is important to the world.

What is qawwali?

A form of Sufi devotional music that birthed in the subcontinent, qawwali refers to uttering of a qaul (speaking of the prophet). This is done by qawwals, a group of musicians who sing spiritual verses paired with the melody of claps, a harmonium, and drums. The purpose of these performance is to bring the devotees close to god by generating a sense of pure mental ecstasy. 

Wondering how this is even possible? Well, the music and energetic beats used in qawwali’s are such that you tend to feel elated even if you are unable to understand the lyrics. 

Like the western genre of trance music, qawwali too tends to start slow and then picks up pace steadily. And Before you know it, you are hypnotised and clapping your hands to the ethereal music. Since it takes time for qawwali’s to reach an energetic momentum, most of the numbers are around 15 to 30 minutes long.

According to historic records, the Persian poet Amir Khosrow created qawwali as a musical art form that centred around devotion and longing for god.

Modernisation of qawwali

Initially performed at Sufi shrines and gatherings, qawwali became popular on a global scale during the 20th century. Though this international attention exposed numerous people around the world to the Sufi culture, it also led to significant changes in the way qawwali was performed by artists.For instance, apart from religion, qawwali now also focuses on non religious verses and is often directed towards unrequited love.

 The famous qawwals

Not a fan of qawwali yet? We are sure tracks by these famous qawwals will have you addicted to this art form. Some of the internationally known qawwals include , Nusrat Fateh Ali KhanSabri BrothersFareed Ayyaz and Abu Muhammad, and Badar Maindad to name a few.

Here are some great qawwali tracks  you need to listen to: