Qawwali – An Influential form of Sufi Music

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Sufi poetry has been written in many languages depending upon the origin of the poet/poetess like Punjabi, Sindhi, Arabic and mostly Persian. While going through various poems, it was observed that two aspects were kept in mind while writing the poetry: one was that it was written to be sung and the other was written to be read privately as a part of devotional practice.
A lot many musical forms came into existence in the Islamic World, the most popular of all is Qawwali. Other than Qawwali, Kafi, Qaul, Kalbana, Ghazal, Naksh, Gul and Rang were also sung in the praise of Allah in Hindi & Braj Bhasha, Urdu, Sindhi, Arabic and Persian. These musical forms were introduced by Hazrat Ameer Khusrao and were considered as a part of Qawwali form and pattern of singing. Ameer Khusrao was a profound genius and a great musician of 13th century, after becoming the disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya, developed a liking for several forms of Indian Music, which resulted in breaking the old traditions of music and “creating these new musical forms.
In the words quoted in India Today-An Encyclopaedia of Life in Republic ,
“Qawwali as a Sufi musical form was introduced by the Chishti Sufi saints in the Indian Sub-continent. Hazrat Ameer Khusrau Dewan (1253 – 1325 C.E.) is considered as the creator of this unique and flexible Sufi musical form. He wrote in both Persian and medieval Hindi.”
As observed, ‘Qawwali’ is a kind of Group song performed along with claps in different styles and patterns and those who perform it in its traditional style are called ‘Qawwals’. The Indian Encyclopaedia defines it as,
“Qawwali is a distinctive style of music which originated from “qual” or the mystical sayings of sufi saints.”
Qawwalis mainly consists of mystical poetry in Persian , hindi , urdu ,Punjabi etc. which is sung by professional Qawwals in a fluid style of alternating solo and group passages characterised by repetition and improvisation. The vigorous drum accompaniment on the barrel shaped Dholak is reinforced by hand clapping while the small portable Harmonium usually in the hands of the lead singer, underscores the song melody. A Qawwali song normally begins with an instrumental prelude as the harmonium then an introductory verse is sung as a solo recitative without drum, leading directly into the song proper; a mystical poem set to a strophic tune and performed by the entire group of Qawwals.
A lot of different musical instruments are being used in Qawwali performances today but the traditional Qawwalis which we hear in Dargah still follow the ‘thet dhunein’ in comparison with the popular ones. Qawwali is observed to be a very flexible and vast structure which includes various other musical forms as well (which have been introduced by Hazrat Ameer Khusrao).

The main reason why Sufi music is so popular in the world is that the beautiful amalgamation of poetic expressions along with heart touching compositions by various poets and poetesses relate directly to the life and challenges faced by a common man, thus leaving a deep impact on their heart and soul.
The various forms of Sufi Music cherished and prospered under the saints of Chishti Order. Chishtis were nicknamed as ‘Musicians’ which is only due to this fact that they introduced many musical forms and propagated Sufism through beautiful compositions based on the poetry of saints and poets. The most common and popular Musical form they introduced was called ‘Qawwali’ which is still famous and gaining popularity day by day.

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