Qawwali through the ages

Miandad scion Ali Badar on carrying tradition forward, venturing into music composition

Ali recently worked on the soundtrack of Fiker Not. PHOTO: IMRAN HAIDER


Qawwali has historically been upheld by gharanas that boast of an affinity with the genre that dates back to the time of Amir Khusrow. However, changing trends of the music industry in recent times have engaged these gharanas in a fight for survival.

Ali Badar Miandad belongs to the renowned Miandad qawwal family. His brother Sikander Miandad and uncle Sher Miandad may have established themselves in the world of qawwali, Ali has other plans. “Qawwali is our family asset and many of my relatives started their careers under the supervision of my father Ustad Badar Miandad,” he told The Express Tribune. Starting out with his father, Ali ventured into light, classical singing and music direction. “I want to move with time,” he adds. He stated that stepping outside his comfort zone was essential, given the changing trends in the industry. “Light music is gaining popularity nowadays, whereas qawwali is facing a crisis. I chose this career path and it has really been a blessing for me. I have earned recognition on both sides of the border with my work.” He recently worked on the soundtracks of Pakistani films like Jang and Fiker Not and also sang and composed music for upcoming Indian film, Ishaq Risk. With three music albums, Udasiyan, Jano Dilum and Faqeera, under his belt, Ali feels his choices have really paid off.

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As far as qawwali is concerned, Ali feels it is high time the survivors of gharanas take matters into their own hands. “It is seeing a decline as of now. The time of giants like Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Sabri Brothers, and Aziz Mian was undoubtedly our golden era and my father was the last of those puritans,” he said. According to Ali, there was a time when the singers were well-versed in the kalams that they were singing but that is no more the case. “The industry is in dire need of quality singers who can shoulder the legacy and take the tradition forward.”

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He said back in the day all qawwals underwent years of training to perfect their skills. “Today’s generation does not seem to care and this is the basic reason that our music industry is in a crisis. Things are still different in India since singers there are encouraged to learn music properly.” He takes pride in the fact that Pakistani singers are dominating Bollywood.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2016.

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