Mu­sic of the Times

Does sufi mu­sic have what it takes to keep people’s in­ter­est?

Southasia - - CONTENTS - Qawwali kafi, By Asra Khurshid qawwali

Su­fism has been an in­te­gral part of the Pak­istani cul­ture and has im­pacted the way of life in a great way. Among other things that it has in­spired, it has left a long-last­ing ef­fect on the mu­sic pro­duced in this re­gion, giv­ing birth to a new genre. The in­spi­ra­tion for sufi mu­sic comes from the works of fa­mous sufi poets such as Amir Khusro, Bulleh Shah, Khawaja Ghu­lam Farid and oth­ers.

Sufi mu­sic is all about emo­tions. It gives the uni­ver­sal mes­sage of peace and har­mony and teaches love and de­vo­tion. This is the rea­son why people from com­pletely dif­fer­ent back­grounds are able to con­nect to sufi mu­sic even though they may not un­der­stand the lan­guage in which the mes­sage is con­veyed. The forms best suited for the ex­pres­sion of Su­fism aes­thet­i­cally are

and with the be­ing the most fa­mous one. Leg­ends like Nus­rat Fateh Ali Khan played a vi­tal role in spread­ing this form of mu­sic all over the world..

Some well-known Pak­istani sufi singers are Abida Parveen, Nus­rat Fateh Ali Khan, Wazir Ali Shah, Sohrab Fakir, Sanam Marvi, Fa­reed Ayaz Qawwal

and Sain Za­hoor..

Be­fore its ad­di­tion to main­stream mu­sic, sufi mu­sic was con­fined to ru­ral ar­eas and was mostly per­formed at shrines. Hardly a few people know the names of the sufi mu­sic per­form­ers who are world fa­mous to­day. Their raw talent was dis­cov­ered by mu­sic afi­ciona­dos and their work was fur­ther re­fined. They were also given a plat­form to show­case their talent. Many such artistes like Sain Za­hoor and Papu Sain are now world fa­mous for their mu­sic.

The genre has gone through many changes over the years and has adapted to mod­ern trends in mu­sic to stay rel­e­vant to the cur­rent times. That is why more and more people are lis­ten­ing to sufi mu­sic. The ur­ban pop­u­la­tion, es­pe­cially, seems more in­clined to­wards it. The trend of hav­ing qawaali func­tions at wed­ding cer­e­monies is gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity among the up­per-class..

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the boom in the me­dia in­dus­try gave young artists an op­por­tu­nity to dis­play their talent on a wider plat­form. With the in­crease in TV chan­nels, new artists emerged. It was also the time when some rock mu­si­cians ex­per­i­mented with sufi mu­sic, mak­ing it pop­u­lar like it was never be­fore. The rock band Junoon is cred­ited with the amal­ga­ma­tion of rock mu­sic with sufi kalam. Their mu­sic be­came fa­mous all over the world, even at places where Urdu or Pun­jabi is not un­der­stood.

Half­way through the decade, Coke Stu­dio was launched. From com­bin­ing

qawwali with bhangra and ghaz­als with rock, this mu­sic has cre­ated a fu­sion of var­i­ous pop­u­lar mu­si­cal gen­res and has gath­ered artistes from all over the coun­try un­der one roof.

The pop­u­lar­ity of sufi mu­sic is also in­creas­ing as it is be­ing show­cased at larger plat­forms such as the Coke Stu­dio and Nescafe Base­ment. The fu­sion of sufi mu­sic with rock and pop mu­sic is at­tract­ing more and more people, es­pe­cially the youth who can re­late to this form of soul­ful and spir­i­tual mu­sic. In ad­di­tion to es­tab­lished sufi mu­si­cians, such shows are also giv­ing a plat­form to new talent.

As a re­sult of such ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, sufi mu­sic pro­duced in Pak­istan is gain­ing in­ter­na­tional pop­u­lar­ity. Pak­istani sufi mu­si­cians are per­form­ing at con­certs and cul­tural pro­grams around the world. In 2010, Pak­istani artistes Sain Za­hoor, Rizwan-Muaz­zam and Pappu Sain opened the con­cert se­ries at Ruhrtri­en­nale – the big­gest cul­tural fes­ti­val of Europe held in the north­west­ern area of Ger­many. They mes­mer­ized the au­di­ence with their en­thralling per­for­mances in a three­hour con­cert.

But how long will the in­ter­est of the ur­ban dwellers in sufi mu­sic last? In to­day’s world, does sufi mu­sic have what it takes to keep the people at­tracted to it? Ven­tures like Coke Stu­dio and Nescafe Base­ment may at­tract people to­wards this genre of mu­sic, but it is likely that their in­ter­est may be short-lived.

A counter ar­gu­ment given in this re­gard is that sufi mu­sic has ex­isted in one form or an­other for cen­turies. It has re­tained its dis­tinct iden­tity de­spite all the fu­sions and ex­per­i­ments. There­fore, it can be safely said that sufi mu­sic is here to stay. How­ever, it may keep chang­ing its forms to stay rel­e­vant in this fast-chang­ing world.

The writer is a stu­dent at the La­hore School of Eco­nom­ics. She reg­u­larly writes on so­cial is­sues.

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