Qawwali: Mystical Sufi Gospel
by: Jennifer Richardson on
Here's a little gem of an article and clip of the great Qawwali singer Abida that I found on KCRW RHTHM PLANET. Plus a little video of the great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Live: Allah Hoo
Abida Parveen is the most famous female qawwali vocalist, adored by fans all over the world. I heard her once in Orange County years ago. She has a big voice, perfect pitch, and a powerful, ecstatic delivery. She will occasionally visit the U.S., but you will likely not know about it unless you read the local Pakistani newspapers.
In a 2013 article in the UK paper The Guardian, Parveen said, “My culture–our culture–is rich in spirituality and love. Sufism is not a switch, the music isn’t a show–it’s of life, it is religion. If I want to recognized for anything, if we should be recognized for anything, it’s the journey of the voice. And that voice is God’s.” Qawwali, like gospel music in the U.S., is a communal experience, a joy meant to be shared.
I did not include another famous qawwali group, the Sabri Brothers, because their tracks are super long. Sadly, I recently wrote a post about one of their founding members who was murdered by an Islamic extremist. Sufi gospel is a way of getting closer to the divine, both for listeners and performers. Dictatorships and Islamist hardliners don’t like music, don’t trust it either. We’ve seen that in the Soviet Union, Chile, Argentina, Iran, and other places.
For those who don’t know about this powerful and ecstatic music, let it be a reminder that its message of peace and harmony is an antidote to the turmoil in Pakistan that we hear in the news.
Credit to @TomSchnabel