|The Lion of Qawal|
Go here for recordings and information The Musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
‘Shahen-shah-e-qawwali’, the brightest-shining star of qawwali 1.
In around 1994 I was playing in the Indian Music circle in Adelaide called Rasik Ranjani and at this time there was WOMAD happening.
During the first WOMAD in Adelaide I was playing with Dya Singh, Cris Finnen, Keith Preston, Dang Tao Nguen, in Daya's band and we were invited to the first WOMAD on the Friday night.
Unfortunately there was a mix up in the stage settings and they cancelled our act.
Often the Indian community had concerts in wealthy peoples homes and I was asked to play tabla with the singers like Mike Panelli a classical singer from Maharastra state, a Parsi and old devotee of Muktananda, and Aktar a Bengali singer and Nasneen from Bengal also.
When Nusrat was in town I got a call from a friend in the music circle Mr Faruque a grand elder of the Pakistan community and a regular of Rasic Ranjani. One half of the program was devoted to poetry of Love called Gazal Poetry. This was somewhat similar to if not the same as Sufi poetry but modernized of late. At least it was in the same tradition of love poetry from the Persian, Turkish Arabic region.He said come down to Clarence Park late and Nusrat and band will be playing for the community.
Wow, was that a concert.!!!!!!!
It started about 10.00 and went ot about 1.00 am
It was a small hall, very non descript and there was about 200 people there sitting on the floor. I was the only white local except for maybe one more person. So obviously it was a invitation only show. Entry was free. This was a big community event for the Pakistanis.The atmosphere was electric and local people poured hundreds of dollars onto the head of the players or literally showered them with money, which is the tradition in Sufism to thank the singers.
I went away that night on my BMW motorbike in the warm summer with the sounds of Zikr in my mind and it went for days, "Allah Hu, Allah Hu, Allah Hu"
This is a qawal devoted to the Sufi Baba Farid Shakar Gunj
My teacher Baba Virsah Singh often referred to Sufi saints like Farid as he instructed about love. Near one of his farms on the Ganges Shiv Sadan a worshiping place was devoted to a local Sufi 'Pir Sahib" and in Ujjian Baba Malang invited Baba to the Sufi celebrations of Hazrat Kallundar Anar Rahimattula Ali in 1996. there he said...
" A dervish saint has no sectarian religion What is his religion? As revealed in the Quran. "God is pure and unequalled; have no doubt" ...Islam is not theoretical it is practical. There have been so many Muslim Dervishes. One Sarmad, whose tomb is in Delhi, was beheaded but even without his head he kept dancing for God. The Nur 5. of God falls upon anyone who reads Gods words with love. He is blessed and his kismet becomes very elevated.4.
Gunji-E-ShakarThis is written for our Sufi-Saint, Baba Farid Shakar Gunj.
Here everything is written in admiration for him. Deep feelings are expressed about him: ‘Gunj-E-Shakar is mine, there is no other saint as generous as him. His name and his love are in every single part of my soul. He is my everything. Whenever I have a problem I call to him and it is solved. Why should I look to other saints when here is the place my problems are resolved? Other saints bow down to him- this is a special reward to him from God. Whoever comes to his tomb to pay homage will be blessed and their wishes will come true. No one will come away empty-handed’.3
Zikr, according to the book Fiqh-Us-Sunnah by Sheik Sayyed As Sabeeq, mentions that, "All words of praise and glory to Allah, extolling His Perfect Attributes of Power and Majesty, Beauty and Sublimeness, whether one utters them by tongue or says them silently in one's heart, are known as Zikr or remembrance of Allah." 1.
Qawal is Zikr in its most sublime and often musically sensual way. The Beloved is described and praised in song, sound and the movement of the instruments and voice.
For more on this see The mysticism of music, sound and word by Hazrat Inayat Khan (vol.2 of the Sufi message) Motilal banarsidas Pub Delhi )
Peter Gabriel recorded Passion with Nusrat and here is a discussion on the recording.
Devotion and love
Sufi poetry or Gazzal poetry is about the love we as humans experience and the words may be about a woman or man but also could be referring to the Beloved or the divine. Here the blurring begins between contempory and spiritual.
If we look at the words of Rumi the focus is more on the divine.
Here are the words of a devotional Qawal to Mohamid the Prophet which Nusrat sings.
Words and meaning Shamas Ud Doha
Read online full text By Hazrat Inayat Khan
4. News from Gobind Sadan newsletter feb 1996
5. Nur- the decent of light
(for more see http://www.almirajsuficentre.org.au/descent_of_light.php)
6. Kismet fate, lot, destiny