LAHORE: Ejaz Sher Ali, the son of Pakistani classical musician Ustad Sher Ali, will soon be launching a brand new album alongside his band RocQawal. The record titled Sufi Spirit has been produced by the world-renowned Mark Howard and will see Ejaz and his band propagating the message of Sufism to the rest of the world.
This is not the first time RocQawal has stepped into the studio. Ejaz has previously released two complete albums, one Sufi rock record and a solo one featuring light music and ghazals soon after that. Sufi Spirit, however, boasts an eclectic mixture of eastern and western elements. “This time around, I wanted to do something very different and therefore, we have recorded the entire album in Denmark,” Ejaz told The Express Tribune. “I must say, Howard has been a great support to us when it came to the western bits of the album. I’m well aware of the changing trends in global music and every artist these days is trying to be unique, so am I. Having said that, I cannot steer too far from the teachings of my father and my uncle, Meher Ali.”
Granted that Sher Ali and Meher Ali have nearly 50 years’ worth of experience under their belts, Ejaz has been accompanying them on tours ever since he was a child, acquiring as much knowledge as he could. “I was about six when I began to sit with my father during performances. I went around the world with him and it always felt great to see people wanted to listen to our music,” Ejaz recalled. “It isn’t very easy to perform qawwali but there are fans all over the world. Even those who don’t comprehend its messages enjoy the melody and music.”
Ejaz is Sher and Meher’s understudy and has been performing for about 10 years now. “I think I’ve been very lucky that my career began under the influence of my family. I’m proud that many others associated with qawwali have either left it or failed to uphold their family legacies but we have stuck through. Every urs there is in Pakistan, people ask for Sher Ali and Meher Ali,” said Ejaz. “Needless to say, I have learnt a great deal from my family. They are the reason my first two albums did so well.”
With Sufi Spirit, RocQawal essentially wants to give a new spin on qawwali. “I believe the purpose of this genre is to spread the message of Sufism and artists such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Aziz Mian, the Sabri brothers and my own family have done a lot for to promote it,” said Ejaz. “RocQawal basically wants to amalgamate rock music and qawwali.”
Nonetheless, Ejaz realises that the younger generations no longer takes as much interest in his chosen field as they once did. “New artists are not too keen on qawwali and only those who belong to proper musical gharanas – with a history of qawwali — take it up nowadays. There is a dire need for new talent. If only, these musicians would see the opportunities awaiting them here,” he explained.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2016.