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 .

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

...Of An Unexpected (And Unbelievable) Find

Two months ago on a trip to Rawalpindi/Islamabad for my Convocation, I spent a day with some very special friends at what I have decided to call "Qawwali Central". At an unassuming house in an unfrequented corner of Islamabad that serves as the office of a Lab Equipment distribution company, I met a couple of friends over a cup of tea and spent four or five highly enjoyable hours listening to, discussing and sharing the whole spectrum of sub-continental classical and devotional music. I sensed pretty early on that I was being initiated into a rather exclusive group of people that treat Sufi Music not just as a part-time means of entertainment but as a passion that occupies a prominent place in their daily lives. We talked about the many projects that each of us is undertaking in our spare time-from cataloging and digitizing cassette tapes to transcribing and editing them to trying to publish the transcribed, annotated Qawwali mehfils in our collection.

And obviously, we listened. I heard several artists and recordings that I was dying to hear for a very long time and they heard what little I had to offer that wasn't already in their possession. Among the various phenomenal pieces of music that I heard for the first time were Gramophone recordings from the '30s and '40s of the two giants of pre-partition Qawwali ; Ali Buksh "Waiz" Qawwal and Azeem Prem Ragi. These two Qawwals hold an almost mythical status in 20th century Qawwali history, being Qawwali what Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters were to the Blues; innovators and popularizers of a centuries old art form who had a profound effect on generations of Qawwals to come. Their recordings were terribly hard to come by and I'd previously had to satisfy myself with reading Prof. Regula Qureshi's evocative accounts of their performances but this time around I had the pleasure of actually listening to them and it was definitely worth the wait.

I left Islamabad with a truckload of new recordings and have listened to them non-stop over the last two months. While listening to one of the MP3s, I came upon a surprising discovery. Unless I was greatly mistaken, I could clearly hear Munshi Raziuddin's distinctive voice on a recording labelled as Ali Buksh "Waiz" Qawwal. Since the recording was very muddy and I wasn't sure what to make of it, I called up the folks at Qawwali Central to clarify. I also sent off emails to a number of very knowledgeable connoisseurs including Abu Muhammad Sb - Munshi saheb's son and one of Pakistan's most eminent Qawwals. From all of them I inquired if Munshi Raziuddin had ever performed with Waiz Qawwal, however I could find no evidence of such a collaboration.

Meanwhile, the folks at Qawwali Central came up with the clarification I was looking for. Munshi Raziuddin had never performed with Waiz and it was actually a mislabeled recording of *pause for effect* the original Manzoor Niazi Qawwal Aur Hamnavaa group performing at Pakpattan. Further proof of the veracity of the information was provided when the gentleman who had actually recorded the Qawwali in the early '60s on a reel-to-reel was contacted and he confirmed that it was definitely the Manzoor Niazi group, and that the recording was made at a Mehfil-e-Sama'a on the occasion of Baba Farid's Urs celebration. So there I had it, confirmation that I did indeed have a truly rare and beautiful recording of the Manzoor Niazi troupe.

Two or three weeks after this I visited Islamabad again and had the immense pleasure of listening to and meeting Farid Ayaz and Abu Muhammad Qawwals where among other things I discussed the recording I had found. I promised that I'd share it with them after I'd edited it a bit to make it more listenable. I've sporadically worked on it over the past month and I think it's in a listenable and share-able form now. A 50 year old amateur recording, it was in pretty bad shape, muddy and distorted with a lot of pop and hiss and variations of pitch and tempo. I've tried to improve it as much as I can and although the end result is far from perfect, I think it's listenable enough to be able to appreciate the performance at great detail.

So without further ado, here is a 27 minute recording of Munshi Raziuddin, Ustad Bahauddin Qawwal and Manzoor Ahmed Niazi performing "Koi Tum Sa Nazar Nahi Aata" at Hazrat Fariduddin Ganj Shakar (R.A)'s Shrine at Pakpattan in the early '60s.

 Yun to kya kya nazar nahi aata
Koi tum sa nazar nahi aata

Dhoondti hain jisse meri aankhain
Woh tamasha nazar nahi aata.

Ho chali khatm Intezaar main Umr
Koi aata nazar nahi aata.
Jholiyaan sab ki bharti jaati hain
Dene wala nazar nahi aata.

Jo nazar aate hain, nahi apney
Jo hai apna, nazar nahi aata.

Zair-e-sayaa hoon uss ke ae Amjad
Jiss ka sayaa nazar nahi aata.

I couldn't discern Iftekhar Ahmed Nizami's voice among the Qawwals, an omission that can be better explained by more knowledgable heads than mine.The kalaam is a beautiful one that I haven't heard before and the 'girahs' inserted by all three Qawwals are extremely apt and very moving. The collaborative singing is of the highest order, reaffirming the loss Qawwali suffered when the Manzoor Niazi Aur Hamnavaa ensemble split up. But as in the recording above, the group in all its glory has the power to transport the listener to giddy heights indeed.

P.S For a copy of the recording, leave a request in the comments.


  1. Absolutely amazing. Exceptional find!

  2. Dear Musab, Can you give me a copy of this gem - my e-mail is bhotla@gmail.com. Enjoy visiting and reading your blogs.

  3. You know a lot about Sufi music and musicians, and qawwali musicians. Ever thought of doing a proper documentary on them? I have almost nil knowledge of these genres of music and you seem the most apt for making one, afaik.

    Also, does it help your occupation as a doctor? :p

  4. @bhotla The link should be in your inbox.
    @Taimur On the contrary, I don't know nearly as much as the real connoisseurs. As for the documentary idea, that isn't my field of expertise, I am however trying to preserve and document as much about these arts and artists as I can. If you are interested, I can help you get in touch with some people who can prove very informative. And it certainly is a help, if not to my patients, then at least to me.

  5. I am like a lost boy who has suddenly discovered this new world. Loved reading your blog and gaining from your knowledge and of course listening to the wonderful gems. Keep up the good work! Would be much obliged if you can send me a copy. Thanks. (catchnehal2002@gmail.com)

  6. I really appreciate your love for qawwali.I would appreciate if u could help me get more of Haji Mehboob sahib's qawwalis. Thanks. saleemullah.khan@hotmail.com

  7. I would be really grateful if you could send me a copy at furqan.mughal@live.com many thanks

  8. this is great... could you pl send me the file at anotherme76@gmail.com ? thank you in advance!!

  9. Janab - If I too can have a copy? alvi.saad@gmail.com
    Aap ke saath kabhi mehfil attend karnay ka moqa mila tou bohat lutf aaey ga..Shukriya.. Saad

  10. I stumbled across this blog via various other sites, and Id love to get a copy of this: haywooj@gmail.com

  11. Luckily I landed on this page. Many thanks for posting it. Can you please email it to nrohilla@gmail.com


  12. saorabh@hotmail.com

    (in the hope that you get a notification when someone comments :))


  13. Brilliant blog mashaAllah.
    Kindly send a copy at
    Thanks and Regards