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 .

Thursday, March 8, 2012

...Of Patriarchs And Distant Relatives

One of my most fruitful archeological endeavors was sparked by an observation by a friend that for all the hours upon hours of Qawwali recordings we've managed to collect, we still have only managed to unearth recordings by two (or very rarely three) generations of Qawwals. The recordings from older Qawwals have either disappeared under the sands of time, or their descendants haven't adopted the hereditary profession of Qawwali. In the time that's passed since that post, the generosity of friends and fellow Qawwali enthusiasts has enabled me to fill some of the gaps in my collection. There are now many Qawwal lineages that can be followed across three (and in one case, even four) generations. As an example, I will focus here on three patriarchs, who have blazed the trail for generations of Qawwals to come, and whose descendants have ably carried on their family tradition.

Ustad Muhammad Ali Faridi Qawwal

Ustad Muhammad Ali Faridi is a seminal figure in the history of 20th Century Qawwali, influencing everything from how it is performed to the position of the performers in a Qawwal party. Incorporating Classical Sufi texts with the tradtional Doaba ang of Punjabi gayeki, he created a potent style of Qawwali that proved popular both with the discerning listeners and the masses. Although his recordings date from the mid '30s to the late '60s, he strated performing much earlier. Accompanied on his latter recordings by his son Abdul Rahim Faridi, the Ustad displayed a unique and very malleable voice that was very expressive in the upper registers and displayed glimpses of his rather formidable classical training. His list of shagirds includes giants like Agha Rasheed Ahmed Faridi and Agha Bashir Ahmed Faridi along with his son Abdul Rahim Faridi, who in turn instructed modern practitioners like Faiz Ali Faiz Qawwal. The Ustad's lineage continues through his grandson Moeen Ali Faridi Qawwal.

Kallan Khan Qawwal Sikandarabadi

Kallan Khan Qawwal is a very important member of the so-called third wave of pre-partition Qawwali gayeki. Hailing from Sikandarabad and affiliated with the shrine of Hz Alauddin Ali Sabir (RA) of Kalyar Shareef, Kallan Khan was an innovator in that along with performing classical Sufi texts, he also wrote many new pieces. Most of his recorded oeuvre consists of his own poetry put to music. He had many shagirds but the most famous among these was his nephew Ghulam Fareed Sabri. In the latter half of Kallan Khan's career, from the 40's on to the late '50s - the era most of his recordings are from - he is accompanied by Ghulam Fareed Sabri, who, if we observe the recordings chronologically, gradually takes over the duties of lead singer from his uncle, whose voice, though powerful, begins to pale in comparison to his nephew as time goes by. (Gosh that was a long sentence). Kallan Khan's shagird in turn went on to become one of the greatest Qawwals of the latter half of the 20th Century and with his phenominally gifted brother Maqbool Ahmed Sabri, created the incomparable Sabri Brothers And Ensemble Qawwali Party. The third generation of the Sabri clan is represented by Amjad Farid Sabri Qawwal.

Baba Din Muhammad Jalandhri Qawwal

When I wrote the earlier post on the Qawwals of the earlier half of the 20th century, I added Din Muhammad Jalandhri almost as an afterthought, because I didn't have any information about him that I could append to his rather wonderful recording. Over time however, I have come to learn a great deal about him and have come to realize his stature among the great Qawwals of the early 20th century. Apart from having an amazingly robust and vociferous andaz, Din Muhammad Qawwal, or Baba Deena Qawwal as the gentlemen over at Rehmat Gramophone House call him, is the forbear of not one but TWO illustrious Qawwali lineages. He was the uncle and ustad of arguably the greatest Qawwals of the 20th century, Fateh Ali - Mubarak Ali Qawwals (who are rightly called Ustadon ke ustad, which makes Din Muhammad Ustadon ke ustadon ka ustad). In turn, Fateh Ali-Mubarak Ali taught performers like the above mentioned Agha Rasheed Ahmad Faridi and Agha Bashir Faridi as well as Bakhshi Salamat Qawwal and of course, their successor Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. And in Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, we see the fourth generation of Baba Din Muhammad carrying the torch forward. His direct lineage too, is impressive to say the least. He was the father of the amazing Miandad Khan Qawwal. Miandad Khan Qawwal and his brother Hafiz Dad Qawwal were affiliated with the shrine of Hz Baba Farid (RA) at Pakpattan and performed till Miandad's death, after which the mantle was taken over by his son, the supremely gifted Badar Miandad Khan Qawwal, who unfortunately like his father, died at a very young age. His younger brothers Sher Miandad Qawwal et al currently perform all over the world.

I initially thought I'd write about and share recordings of only these three phenominal qawwals in this post but considering that my holidays are at an end and I won't be able to write for another month or so, I figured I might as well share some more of my favorite recordings. Some of these recordings have been uploaded by an angel in human shape on a youtube channel called "dogslum23", a channel I wholeheartedly recommend to every Qawwali fan. Here then are selections from some of my favorite recordings uploaded on the abovementioned channel. Most of the qawwals are known to me, but a couple are complete unknowns and I hope that like Baba Din Muhammad, I will one day be able to uncover more of their recordings and more about their lives.

Kallan Khan Qawwal Meerthi

Prefaced by an amazing Sitar baaj, Kallan Khan Qawwal Meerthi (not to be confused with Kallan Khan Sikandarabadi) sings a seminal classical kalam of Maulana Jami (RA) Hasan Multani that is sadly very rarely sung by modern Qawwals.

 Professor Miran Baksh Qawwal Of Peshawar

From the age of the recordings, along with the photos and the dates of birth and death provided by the uploader, Miran Baksh Qawwal appears to be a contemporary of the 2nd generation of pre-partition Qawwals. From his phenomenal performance, his title of 'Professor' and the wealth of medals pinned on his chest, he appears to have been an amazing and highly respected Qawwal. Here he sings one of my favorite Kalams of Hz Amir Khusrau (RA).

Hafiz Atta Muhammad Qawwal

This recording begins with a very melodious Doha, whose final line is pregnant with longing and love for the Prophet (SAW); 'Kyun Madni deri'yaan lai'yaan?'. Performed in the style of a traditional Punjabi folk tune with a healthy number of taans thrown in and a 'gharra' playing in the background, this is a wonderful performance.

Kaloo Qawwal Of Calcutta

One of the first Qawwals to be recorded in India, Kaloo Qawwal performed without the traditional handclap accompaniment and traditional instruments, presenting instead a more westernized approach. Here he sings a famous Arabic Naat, giving it a full studio treatment.

Azim Prem Ragi Qawwal

A very important pre-partition Qawwal in that he successfully met the requirements of the audience at Sufi shrines as well as the gramophone buying public, Azim Prem Ragi performed well into the '50s. The following recording appears to be post 1947 because of the use of the phrase 'Pak aur Hind', and like most of his recorded output, was penned by Prem Ragi himself.

And finally, one recording each by the three stalwarts mentioned in the first part of the post.

Ustad Muhammad Ali Faridi Qawwal

Kallan Khan Qawwal Sikandarabadi

Baba Din Muhammad Jalandhri Qawwal

N.B Any further information about, or recordings by the Qawwals mentioned above would be very gratefully received, so will any comments and corrections.


  1. please guide me to get more of Haji Mehboob sahib's original qawwalis of Hazrat Babu Ji's era. shall be grateful. Saleem Khan

    1. Saleem Sb keep watching this blog, I'll keep uploading recordings as often as I can.

  2. This is a real treasure . No words to thank you You have given life to names and legends we used to hear from our elders

  3. Musab,
    my email is ajnabi1957@gmail.com.
    I'm from Washerman's Dog blog
    What's your email. I'd like to make a proposition to you. Look forward to hearing from you.

  4. I'm surprised to read that Ghulam Farid Sabri was the nephew of Ustad Kallan Khan. Would like a little more elaboration about their family tree, whether it was from his mother's side or father's side that he was related to Kallan Khan.
    Thanks for the wonderful information stored up in this blog.