About Qawwali

Qawwali is one of the most popular forms of Sufi devotional music and its tone is conversational while the emotion is of building up sacred ecstasy through words and music. Tracing its origins to 8th century Persia, the Qawwali style of music is conventionally performed at the Sufi shrines and dargahs all across the vast subcontinent and now is extremely popular internationally as well. Themes of love devotion, secularism and complete submission to the all powerful almighty are astutely woven into a spiritual extravaganza during a Qawwali performance which is also referred to as the Mehfil-e-Sama. The depth and profundity of the philosophy of the lyrics are complemented by intricate detailing of space-time in the rhythm pattern; there is ample ornamentation and complex ragas are rendered at nodes. A lead singer who initiates and conducts the performance is accompanied by a group of singers who repeat verses of poetry once recited, to accentuate the build up of both meaning and music. In all, it is a group of eight or nine men some of whom also play the harmonium, the Tabla, and the Dholak and there is consistent clapping the sound of which is integral to the audio memory of a Qawwali. The rendition starts at an instrumental piece which is followed by recitation of Sufi poetry which may or may not belong to the main theme of the song yet the whole is tied together by the general emotion of devotion. Kafi can also be sung within the rendition to differentiate and evolve the complexity of the rhythm. At times a performance also starts with the singing of the raga to which the composition is structured. One composition can be prolonged to different durations and is a new performance every time it is sung owing to improvisations that are brought in with varying poetic couplets on each occasion and the classical exuberance with which it is rendered.   

There are different forms of Qawwalis in reverence to multiple forms in which the divine is worshipped. A ‘Hamd’ is a song in praise of Allah, while a ‘Naat’ is sung in praise of Prophet Muhammad. A very popular and most well-known style of Qawwali is the ‘Manqabat’ that is sung to extol the virtues of Imam Ali and the fruits of following him to attain the supreme. Not only are the Sufi lyrics liberating in their essence but the build up of the highly articulated rhythm seeks to uplift both the singer and the listener from immediate reality and usher them into an experience of the sublime.


Qawwali Photos

Qawwali Video

Qawwali Album