The Mehfil-e-Sama held at the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) theatre on Saturday night featured one of the best qawwali groups of the country, the award-winning duo Farid Ayaz and Abu Muhammad Qawwal & Bros. The show, which went on till sehri, was performed to perfection in terms of sound quality, content and punctuality and brought to life the original essence of qawwali in terms of spirituality and music.
If we look back, the father of qawalli Hazrat Amir Khusro had achieved the style that we know today by merging elements of Arabic and Persian music with Indian classical music. Since the content was all about finding God within yourself, an idea that echoes the foundation of sufism, the works of other mystics who followed the same line of thought such as Baba Bulleh Shah were also taken up by qawals. After centuries of spiritual enchantment throughout the world, qawali still survives as one of the most powerful and influential forms of religious music to date. This is the reason why its impact is felt even more in the holy month of Ramazan. And that, too, when it is being performed by the deadly duo of Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad.
A powerful performance
The evening started off with a naat that, through its words, celebrated the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and described the reactions of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) family and Hazrat Jibraeel (AS), on his birth. The naat had a relatively slow tempo but the lyrics were enlightening enough to make anyone feel spiritually connected.
Breaking away from their streak of enthralling performances, the duo shared its reason behind choosing a specific playlist for the Napa audience. “Since we are performing at an arts academy, we have only chosen to perform pieces that are a telltale sign of music theory and are universally accepted. So that the cycle of knowledge can carry on simultaneously,” said Ayaz.
What followed was a soulful rendition of Sakhi Kaise Kahun Mohe Laaj Lage, which the duo has gained immense popularity for worldwide. The command of the supporting brothers on the high and low notes was simply amazing and spoke volumes about their significantly impeccable talent.
Their playlist largely revolved around the Persian works of Amir Khusro and those of Baba Bulleh Shah. But the ones that were accompanied by a translation from Ayaz successfully made a place in the hearts of young and old listeners.
Nami Danam Che Manzil Bood, a Persian piece of poetry by Amir Khusro which is also considered to be a naat, resonated through the walls leaving the audience in a mystical trance. This was followed by a relatively well-known number Khabaram Rasida Imshab, owing its popularity to Coke Studio and Ayaz’s signature antics on stage. It was by far one of the most elaborate performances until the highlight of evening, Mera Piya Ghar Aya took the crowd by storm.
The evening ended with the traditional ‘rung’ as everyone rose in veneration of the kalaam with inner satisfaction pulsing from every corner of the hall. While the elders felt every single word to the fullest, the younger audience members swayed to the tune.
The evening was well-attended, with the likes of Taj Haider and pop singer Shehzad Roy in the audience, despite the two bomb blasts that had struck the city just a few hours prior to the event. They, along with others, seemed truly mesmerised.
“If you people keep showing your appreciation for art and come here with such high spirits then we can definitely get our old city back — the city that has lost its real essence,” said Arshad Mehmud, senior faculty member at Napa, as he thanked the audience.
Hats off to Napa’s music department for organising one of the best qawalli nights to have taken place in Ramazan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2013.
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