I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Sunday, September 26, 2010

...Of Fareedi Sahab

There's a word in Urdu that doesn't have an exact substitute in English, one of many I presume. The word is ہیجان - 'Haijaan' It can roughly be translated as a feeling of unease or restlessness. I've always looked upon music as something that soothes,calms or in certain cases, provides emotional release. I'd never thought that music could produce 'Haijaan'. That was until I heard Fareedi sahab.

My last year of Med School was when I really discovered Qawwali, and it was all thanks to this one friend of mine-who shall remain nameless by his request. Every six to seven days, I would trudge over to his hostels and park myself in his dorm room. The conversation would always start with, 'Musab bhai aap ne yeh suna hai?' to which  I'd obviously reply in the negative, resulting in the now legendary remark, 'Chorain Musab bhai, aap ne to kuch suna hi nahi'. It started with Munshi Raziuddin sahab, then Haji Mehboob Qawwal and then to the rest of the stellar recordings in his immense collection. Collectors are miserly folk by nature, and my friend is no exception. It'd take beggings and pleadings to allow me to copy some of the stuff into my iPod, but eventually I built up a fair collection of my own.

One day,while sitting in his room and listening to something by Haji Mehboob, he said, 'Musab bhai, aap ne Fareedi sahab ko suna hai?' There were the customary replies, a negative from me and a 'Chorain Musab bhai' from him .... and then he played me something. I listened in silence as the instrumental prelude -the sazeena- ended. Then came the first verse and I was stunned. I listened in complete silence and I could sense my friend observing the expressions on my face change as the music sunk in. The voice of the performer was so remarkable, the arrangement was so unusual and the accompaniment was so superb that I was immediately floored. I listened to the whole piece in silence and then requested him to play it again. Another listen and I couldn't get my mind off the composition. I asked him if he would give it to me and he declined; which was his usual practice. I went back to my dorm to sleep as it was pretty late at night.

All the way back to my dorm I couldn't get my mind off the Qawwali I'd just heard. It was not that it was beautiful; which it was beyond doubt; it was almost disturbingly beautiful. I couldn't understand why I was suddenly restless, my heart palpitating, butterflies in my stomach. I tried to sleep but couldn't. All night I stayed up,pacing the room and thinking about what I'd heard. I was extremely agitated and more than that, I was surprised at my condition because this sort of trepidation was usually reserved for the last five minutes before a viva voce examination when I knew it was my turn to meet the examiner. Finally around 6am in the morning I phoned my friend, woke him up and told him I was coming over to get the recording from him one way or the other. Something in my tone of voice must've given him an idea of my mental state and he acquiesced. I got the recording and played it continously for weeks and weeks. That was how I was introduced to probably the greatest Qawwal nobody has heard of - Agha Rasheed Ahmed Fareedi Qawwal.

At the time of my first listen , I had no idea who Fareedi sahab was.When I got much more immersed in the world of Qawwali, I found out some of the rather sketchy biographical details that are available. Fareedi sahab was a favorite pupil of the legendary Fateh Ali Khan (Nusrat's father); a fact that is forcefully borne out by the similarities between the two Qawwal's performance styles. He preferred the more traditional style of hius Ustad over the innovative approach taken by Nusrat, once saying 'Main Nusrat nu aakhya si ke apne baap di raah te aaja, parr uss meri gal nahi manni.' ( I had told Nusrat to follow the path of his father but he didn't listen to me' Fareedi sahab, like his great contemporay Haji Mehboob Qawwal, was exclusively a 'darbaari qawwal', that is he only performed at Sufi shrines and didn't release anything commercially. All his surviving recordings are bootlegs from his performances at various shrines-chiefly Baba Sahab Fariduddin Ganj Shakar's shrine at Pak Pattan and Kalyam Ayan near Gujjar Khan.

Fareedi sahab had a deep, gravelly and distinctive voice and he was accompanied by arguably one of the most talented group of 'hamnavaas' any Qawwal has possessed. His party contained the phenomenal 'baja' players and co-singers Majeed Fareedi and Mubarak Ali Lahori who were the perfect foil for Rasheed's voice. Majeed in particular had this startlingly distinctive voice and lent an unmistakably 'Potohari' flavor to the party's performances. Fareedi sahab was known as a very meticulous performer and was not averse to physically hitting or loudly swearing at his hamnavaas in the choicest punjabi in the middle of performances if he thought they weren't delivering. It's little wonder that his party was considered the most 'disciplined' party of their time.

His performance style was unique, very spirited and -at the tail end of a performance - almost electric. He always tried to achieve the maximum emotional impact, once remarking 'Je mera vass challay te main ainhaan saaryaan de kapray paar ke ghar wapas ghallaan' (If it were upto me, all the listeners would go home with their clothes in tatters). He would always sit to one side of his party. keeping his hands on the harmonium to dictate the notes as he sang. He had a distinctive way of performing, accentuating his singing with his hands, face and sometimes his whole body. In moments of musical excitement, he was known to stand up and sing with his arms outstretched, his face upturned. A couple of people who attended some of his performances tell me that they are unlikely to ever forget the sight of Fareedi sahab singing at the peak of his powers. His longer pieces slowly built up to a series of thundering takraars and alaaps while the shorter pieces were tours de force of blisteringly electric delivery.

Although Rasheed Fareedi was the darbaari qawwal at Pakpattan, he was also a follower of Pir Mehr Ali Shah (R.A) and 'ba'it' at the hands of Pir sahab's son, Hazrat Babuji (R.A). This meant that Fareedi sahab would occasionally visit the Golra Sharif shrine to pay his respects and to perform with his illustrious contemporary and personal friend Haji Mehboob Qawwal. These rare occasions would draw huge crowds and the two Qawwal parties with their leaders sitting at front would be a site to behold. Fareedi sahab's loud, powerful style meant that Haji Mehboob would more often than not have to play catch-up with Fareedi sahab's tempo and notes. Sadly, very few recordings of these mehfils survive, but they are a phenominal glimpse into how two giants of their field collaborated to produce something magical.

Rasheed Ahmed Fareedi passed away around 1987 from complications resulting from Throat Cancer; a disease  many of his fans blamed it on his years of vigorous high octave singing that had taken its toll on his throat. After his demise, most of the members of his Qawwali party joined Abdul Raheem Fareedi Qawwal to form another powerhouse troupe who enjoyed a fair amount of success in the late 80's and early '90s. After Fareedi sahab's death, the attendances at Qawwali mehfils gradually thinned out at Kalyam Awan.

Although audio recordings, especially good quality recordings of Fareedi sahab are rare, video records of his performances are rarer still. Barely half a dozen video recordings are present, most in the hands of collectors a thousand times more miserly than the friend I mentioned above. Below is one of the two videos that are available online. It shows Fareedi sahab and his party performing at his son's wedding at Lahore. This was recorded a few months before his demise. His spellbinding performance style is here for all to see, the takraars are amazing, his histrionics enliven the performance to the nth degree and the 'Pa Ni Sa..Re SA Sa' sargam', one of his trademarks, is employed to great effects. Also on display is the awesome strength of his 'hamnavaas', each one of them a singular artist in his own right.

At Fareedi sahab's 'Chaleesvaan' (the 40th day after his death), Haji Mehboob Qawwal sang a wonderful version of Pir Mehr Ali Shah's kalaam as a lament for his deceased friend. It was a fitting tribute from one great Qawwal of his age to another, and it will serve as a fitting end to this short series of posts on some of my favorite artists and performances from Qawwali. I will certainly revisit this subject which is obviously a favorite of mine, but now ,"The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things".

Thursday, September 16, 2010

...Of Haji Ghulam Fareed

 YouTube is the greatest thing since bread came sliced. The ideal fodder for procrastination as well as a treasure trove of rarities, nostalgia trips and all-round awesomeness. The following videos were the start of one of such nostalgia trips and I thought I'd share them here.

 Haji Ghulam Fareed Sabri, the elder of the Sabri Brothers, was one of the greatest Qawwals of the last century and with his younger brother Haji Maqbool Ahmed Sabri, was instrumental in gaining a mainstream audience for Qawwali. With a repertoire at par with his other great contemporary, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Haji Ghulam Fareed and the Sabri Brothers were THE face of Qawwali for well over 30 years. Maintaining a classical andaaz while at the same time innovating over the years, the Sabri Brothers were consummate performers. Like Nusrat, they were woefully over-recorded with a lot of amateurishly produced material available easily. However their recordings over the years for EMI Pakistan are exemplary for their wonderful instrumentation and exceptional adaaigi.

Haji Ghulam Fareed was more than just a performer, being a scholar, and in the last days of his life, a Sufi himself. He was the epitome of what we can call - for want of a better word - 'presence'. His flowing locks, his under-the-breath intonations and the trademark calls of 'Allah' that punctuated the Sabri Brothers performances were charming flourishes that lent his work a more mystical tone. But Haji sahab's greatest asset was his voice. He had a distinctive booming, barrel-organ voice that never sounded out of key and could hit notes as high as the sky one momentwhile navigating intricate alaaps the very next.

Haji Sahab passed away on the 5th of April 1940 in Karachi of a massive heart attack. The following program was aired on PTV a few days after his demise.

 A relic of a time when the passing of a culturally significant artist was a national event, this program is touching because of the genuine displays of grief by Haji Sahab's family. Haji Maqbool's tearful recollection of Haji sahab's last moments is a tragic yet beautiful reminder that although they had their fair share of brotherly squabbles, the two Sabri brothers shared a deep love for each other. This video is also significant as it contains interviews of all three stalwarts of the Qawwal Bacchon Ka Gharana-two of whom have since then sadly passed away. While all three brothers-Munshi Raziuddin, Ustad Bahauddin and Manzoor Niazi- offer their condolences and appraise the contribution of Haji sahab in the field of Qawwali, Munshi Raziuddin's comments are particularly interesting.

Maybe it's just me, but I sense a thinly veiled disdain in Munshi sahab's comments regarding the 'populist' nature of the Sabri Brothers repertoire. This would be understandable coming from Munshi sahab as he was the standard-bearer for the more traditional and classical Qawwali idiom, even if it meant significantly less commercial acclaim as compared to his more 'populist' compeers, apart from a rather limited discerning audience. Munshi sahab was known for his dislike of the various 'innovations' that the likes of Nusrat had introduced into Qawwali and maybe that dislike extended to the Sabris.

Haji Ghulam Fareed started actively performing a short time before partition at the mazaar of Hazrat Ali Ahmed Sabir (R.A) with his uncle Kallan Khan Qawwal. Around seven years after partition he joined the Qawwal party his younger brother had started and the Sabri Brothers started. From some of the gramophone recordings of Kallan Qawwal and Party we can get a glimpse of the precocious talent that Haji Ghulam Fareed Sabri possessed. His voice -although not as voluminous as in his later days- is distinctive and his vocal stylings offer a stunning peek into his future exploits with the Sabri Brothers. I'd like to end this piece with one of Kallan Qawwal and Party's gramophone recordings from the late 1940s in which Haji Ghulam Fareed's distinctive voice is unmissable. Following that are the Sabri Brothers at their - if I may use the term - grooviest. The beat is amazing, the baja is played with remarkable elan and Haji Ghulam Fareed looks dashing sans his locks.


P.S I'd give an arm and a leg for the the complete versions of the two Qawwalis shown in the above videos.

Monday, September 6, 2010

...Of The Qaul

The starting point to this series of posts on Qawwali was obvious to me as soon as I first thought about writing them. Any discussion on Qawwali naturally begins at the point from where Qawwali itself began; Amir Khusrau (R.A) and the Qaul.

The exact origins of Qawwali may be shrouded in the mists of time but one thing is certain, Qawwali as we know it today started with arguably the single most important cultural figure in the history of Muslims in the sub-continent; Amir Khusrau (R.A). The warrior-poet-trader-musician-mystic directly or indirectly influenced the written, spoken and musical expression of the North Indian sub-continent. Even a superficial discussion of Khusrau's divers contributions would take pages upon pages. I'll limit this post to just one of Khusrau (R.A)'s creations, one that serves as the cornerstone of the art of Qawwali. The Qaul is derived from a Hadees of the Prophet (S.A.W) that was coupled with a brief musical piece known as a Tarana. It was created and performed by Khusrau (R.A), who then taught it to his disciples. It is as follows.

Man kunto maula,

Fa Ali-un maula
Man kunto maula.
Dara dil-e dara dil-e dar-e daani.
Hum tum tanana nana, nana nana ray
Yalali yalali yala, yala ray
Man tunko maula......

With the first half comprising the actual 'Qaul' of the Prophet(S.A.W) and the second half comprising the tarana, it forms the foundation stone of Qawwali. There is slight variation among performers with respect to the first half of the Qaul, with some replacing "Fa Ali-un maula" with "Fa-haaza Ali-un Maula" .The linguistic significance of the phrases of the Tarana has long been debated, with some claiming they are meaningless words used only for their musicality while others claiming they are derived from ancient Persian and Hebrew words. What's beyond debate is the sheer musical power of the tarana when performed by the Qawwal.

I've always maintained that Qawwali is akin to Jazz in that it's a performer's rather than a composer's art. The basic melodic framework and standard mystical or poetic text exists for each piece but the Qawwal is free to improvise either musically or lyrically to enhance the effectiveness of the performance and help the listeners of the Sama'a in achieving the state of 'Haal' . A composition as universal as the Qaul offers an excellent example of the flexible nature of Qawwali, with each Qawwal able to mold the standard composition to his own individual style. There is hardly any Qawwal who doesn't contain the Qaul in his repertoire and each performer performs it in his own peculiar idiom.

In this post, I'd like to share some of the many recordings of the Qaul that I have had the pleasure of collecting. They are by some of the greatest Qawwals of the sub-continent; each infusing the Qaul with their own personal style which is transmitted generation to generation, with certain girahs and bandishes peculiar to that particular Qawwal or Gharana. These recordings provide fascinating insight into the styles,influences and overall performance idiom of the greatest Qawwals of our time.

The "Qawwal Bacchon Ka Gharana" lays rightful claim to being the oldest and most illustrious Qawwal lineage in the sub-continent. Directly descended from the 12 young disciples of Amir Khusrau (R.A) - the Qawwal Bacchay - , members of this Gharana have more or less resisted the more 'commercial' bent of most of their peers in favour of performing the more classical and raag based Qawwali. Even though the two great scions of the Gharaana - Munshi Raziuddin Qawwal and Ustad Bahauddin Khan Qawwal - have passed away, their descendants are vey ably carrying the tradition forward and along with the third great proponent of the Gharana in Pakistan -Manzoor Niazi Qawwal - and his sons, are the pre-eminent practitioners of the art of Qawwali in Pakistan.

In India, the Qawwal Bacchon ka Gharana is represented by the overall head of the Gharaana, Ustad Meraj Ahmed Nizami Qawwal who is attached to the shrine of Hazrat Nizam-ud-Din Aulia in Delhi and regularly performs despite being at an advanced age. In addition the sons and grandsons of the late Aziz Ahmed Khan Warsi also perform a repertoire  containing both traditional arrangements as well as more recent compositions. The recordings that follow represent the Qaul as performed by the members of the Qawwal Bacchon Ka Gharana.

The first recording, form 1969, is remarkable in that all three leading Qawwals of the Gharana - Munshi Raziuddin Qawwal, Bahauddin Qawwal and Manzoor Niazi Qawwal - are heard on it. The recording, slightly edited form the sorce to improve the overall dynamics, captures an astounding performance in which the the taans and behlaavas of all three Qawwals and the accompanying tabla give it a stately elegance. Munshi Raziuddin's vocal virtuosity is at it's peak and the modulated alaaps are a joy to listen to. The recitation of another of Khusrau (R.A)'s Qauls at the end of the piece brings it to a brilliant close.

The second Qawwali is taken from a set of audio-cassettes released in India in 1975 to mark the seventh centenary of Amir Khusrau's birth. A number of spoken word introductions by Prof. Zoe Ansari punctuate this version of the Qaul sung by Bahauddin,Qutbuddin Qawwal and Party. Bahauddin performs this and the other qawwalis on the cassettes in the classical idiom with no girahs whatsoever, with a beautiful sitar and tambura accompaniment. This is a mellifluous piece which slowly gathers tempo as Bahauddin uses his phenominal voice to weave a number of modulated alaaps and variations on the tarana. The takraar and behlaavas at 'Ta na na na' are especially brilliant.

The third recording is a brief snippet from the end of a mehfil by the late Aziz Ahmed Warsi Qawwal from Hyderabad,India. The rather frenzied pace gives the performance an energy and urgency that, mixed with Aziz Warsi's rich voice, is very appealing. The arrangement is slightly different but the style is again the same as the Qawwal Bacchon Ka Gharana. Even though the recording clocks in at only 45 odd seconds, the arrangement and Warsi's voice give it a special grace.

The first three versions of the Qaul represent the classical version with little if any use of girah or Paivandkaari. The next version is by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, taken from an early Nineties concert in Paris. Nusrat's version is significant for two reasons; first and foremost it gives insight into how a classical piece is molded and modified to suit the sargam and behlaava influenced style that Nusrat epitomised. The second reason is that Nusrat's arrangement  -and not the one favored by the Qawwal Baccha's - forms the basis of most other modern Qawwals' performance of the Qaul. The majority of the current Qawwals perform it in Nusrat's style, using most of the same girahs. A number of improvisations on the taraana are followed by the use of some well chosen girahs from both Farsi and Urdu before the Qawwals settle into a takraar of the "Maula Ali Maula" refrain. Nusrat then embellishes it with a few modulated alaaps and sargams - the sargam at 11 minutes is especially beautiful - fitting perfectly with the mood and tonal structure of the Qaul.

The influence of Nusrat's arrangement of the Qaul is apparent in the next recording by Manzoor Hussain Santoo Khan Qawwal and Party. It is taken from the 'Flight Of The Soul-Qawwalis from Pakistan' album from the early Nineties and captures the last days of the original party. They were an exceptional group from Faisalabad who enjoyed their heyday in the late seventies and early eighties and this recording finds them past their peak with several important members having passed away. After leading it for around 25 years, Manzoor Hussain handed over the leadership of the party to his son soon after this recording and now sits with the party during performances only for 'tabarruk'. This recording is remarkable for many reasons; among them the fabulous clarinet accompaniment that was the hallmark of Manzoor Hussain Santoo Khan's performances for 30 years. At places sounding like an alto saxophone, the clarinet weaves in and out of the arrangement very melodically. Another highlight is the delightful verse placed at the culmination of the main Qaul -at around 11:30 minutes into the performance- that is unique to this recording. The Nusrat inspired behlaavas of Manzoor's son, although slightly off-beat at certain points, are reassuring as to the future of the party in his hands.

Aziz Mian Qawwal was probably the most unique voice in Qawwali over the past 40 years. Known as "Fauji Qawwal" in his early days on account of his blustery delivery and electric performance style. More akin to Waiz Qawwal of Lucknow than anyone else, Aziz Mian was an acquired taste. However his performance of the Qaul, taken from a 1979 EMI release, is enjoyable because of the beautiful orchestral accompaniment as well as the slow, elegant preamble that allows Aziz Mian to use a number of verses in place of a single doha. The Tarana is similar in style to Nusrat, but Aziz Mian's stamp is clear in his recording.

Finally I'd like to share two of my favorite interpretations of the Qaul. The first is from a concert at Alibhai Auditorium performed by the  Sabri Brothers from 1980. The fact that it is a soundboard recording released by EMI accounts for it's exceptional fidelity and clarity. Haji Ghulam Fareed Sabri and Haji Maqbool Sabri are in fine mettle and the 'hamnavaas' provide exceptional accompaniement, both during the choruses and the taraana as well as on the tablaa and dholak. The beautiful modulated alaap by Haji Maqbool at the start of the piece provides an excellent taste of the brilliance to come, with a number of alaaps punctuating the initial part of the Qaul before reaching the tarana. At the tarana, the dholak kicks in with a thumping beat before both the brothers recite a number of charming girahs including a charming spoken-word translation of one of them by Haji Ghulam Fareed. This girah is then used to virtuosic effect by Haji Maqbool who weaves a number of astounding alaaps around it before seguing seamlessly into the tarana. And what a tarana ! Alaaps and behlaavas tumble over each other as the tempo picks up and the two brothers are accompanied by the tabla to beautiful effect.

The tarana leads to a beautiful chorus of 'Maula Ali Maula' before Haji Maqbool and Haji Ghulam Farid's beautiful rendition of another series of girahs, once again returning to a breakneck rendition of the tarana building up to an astonishing crescendo.

Most of the recordings above -as well as performances of the Qaul by other Qawwals - are performed in Raag Shudh Kalyaan or Shyaam Kalyaan. The final recording I'd like to share is by one of the greatest Qawwals of the last century, the late Rasheed Ahmed Fareedi Qawwal. I aim to write a detailed post on him as part of this series but for the time being, his version of the Qaul is an excellent introduction to his work. It is in Raag Bhopali, as Fareedi sahab explains at the beginning, lending it a more regal and ponderous air. The chorus at the initial half of the Qaul oscillates as various parts of the verse are used for a series of beautiful takraars. The second half of the Qaul -namely the tarana- is again split into two parts with an almost hypnotic takraar on the 'ta na na na' portion. A number of alaaps follow before another takraar, this time based on the 'Ali Maula' phrase.
This takraar serves as the framework for a number of beautiful girahs, culminating in the famous verse of Hazrat Bedam Shah Warsi(R.A)

             'بیدم  یہی  تو  پانچ  ہیں  مقصود  کائنات
        خیر النسا، حسین و حسن،مصطفیٰ ،علی
This verse is next incorporated into a breathtaking, 'Haal' inducing takraar that is maintained at breakneck tempo by the hamnavaas. the takraar abruptly ends in a raag shift that is truly beautiful. The final 10-12 minutes of the recording find Fareedi sahab and his hamnavaas exploring a number of alaaps in Raag Desh and Jaijaiwanti, gradually leading to a slow end to the piece.

These were some of the recordings of the Qaul that I have in my collection. In sharing them, I've sought to illustrate the various performance styles of the pre-eminent Qawwals of the last century and the evolution and modifications this seminal piece of qawwali has undergone in the hands of various performers. The centrality of the Qaul in the sufi music repertoire can further be illustrated by its thousands of versions, performed by artists as diverse as Atif Aslam and the Brooklyn Qawwali Party. Serving as a direct link to the roots of Sufism and Sufi music in the sub-continent, the Qaul is a living, breathing monument that continues to thrive and evolve in the hands of countless musicians and serves as a constant tribute to the genius of it's creator, Amir Khusrau(R.A).

A Preamble Of Sorts

Motivation - I daren't say inspiration - is often found in strange and unexpected places. It was after sitting in a hardback wooden chair doing absolutely, utterly nothing for 16 hours at a stretch everyday for three consecutive days that I finally decided that I needed to write something. Every three months or so, one of the house officers at my hospital is ordered to devote a weekend to a rather peculiar duty which , in essence , involves sitting in a 8x8 foot air-conditioned room in a chair for around 14-16 hours each day.

Boredom and backaches make for a rather morose weekend and it's up to the captive doctor to find means of distracting himself. My first day on duty was spent in the company of a pair of policemen who took my dazed and bored expression as an invitation to start recounting with obvious relish stories of the various murders they had investigated, taking special care to flesh out the rather graphic descriptions of the various crime scenes. Needless to say, I wasn't bored.

On the second day I'd gotten wise to the fact that I'd have to stop relying on long-winded coppers to keep me entertained. I had my iPod with me and spent 10 straight hours listening to the late Rasheed Ahmed Fareedi Qawwal (more on him later) while reading David Mitchell's astoundingly brilliant new novel. It was during this reading-listening marathon that I suddenly felt the urge to write. My urge hit a snag at the outset due to the fact that I didn't have anything to write on, namely no paper. This gave me ample time to think over what I needed to write and thus I'm at a peculiar position of having a series of four or five posts pretty near mapped out in my mind.

So it is that on this, the third and sadly, penultimate day of my semi-incarceration that I've brought with me ample supplies of paper so I can finally transmit the thought-up posts to the written page. And what I've decided to write about - maybe devote this whole month to - is something that has rather rapidly gained huge importance in my life, namely Qawwali.

I think it would be safe to say that Qawwali now ranks with Dylan and Wodehouse as an all-consuming obsession of mine. Listening to, gathering and sharing Qawwali recordings has become an important part of my routine and has led to friendships and acquaintance with a number of wonderful and well nigh extraordinary people over the last year and a half. It has also opened doors of a huge treasure trove of poetic, musical and mystical knowledge and appreciation. Over the course of the next few posts, I'll write about the various artists and performances that have left me spellbound and that have made Qawwali such an important piece of my life.