By S. Arshad, New Age Islam
12 October 2019
which was a very popular form of devotional music in the Indian sub-continent
during the second half of the 20th century is on the Wane. Though there are
still some good Qawwal both in India and Pakistan, the popularity of Qawwali
among the masses has diminished for various reasons.
Qawwali as a
form of devotional music was created by the renowned Indian post and musician
and a disciple of Sufi Nizamuddin Awlia, Amir Khusrau with the help of his
teacher Pandit Gopal Nayak in the 13th century. Khusrau fused Persian, Arabic
and Turkish musical traditions with Indian music to give a distinct shape to Qawwali.
During that age, the tradition of devotional poetry and music was very popular
among Hindus. Muslim Sufis had also arrived in India and some of them were good
posts composing mystic poetry that was sung in monasteries (Khanqah). Qawwali
became the carrier of the Sufi poetry. Amir Khusrau himself wrote Ghazals that
were spiritual and devotional. The word Qawwal is derived from the Arabic word Qaul
which means saying of the prophet or Aulia. Therefore, Qawwal is one who sings
devotional songs. Gradually Qawwali became a part of the culture of the
Indian sub-continent and Sufi shrines became centres of Qawwali. There,
the sessions of Qawwali came to be known as Mehfil-e-Sama.
In India and Pakistan, Qawwali
became popular among the masses during the second half of the 20th century and Qawwali
took the shape of folk music in which all kinds of topics were presented.
Qawwals like Habib Painter, Aziz Nazan, Jani Babu, Shankar Shambhu, Shakila
Bano Bhopali, and Saleem Chishti emerged in this period. Romantic, didactic,
Sufi and social issues were presented in these Qawwalis but Sufism
remained at its heart.
Bahut Kathin Hai Dagar Panghat Ki,
Bhar Do Jholi,
Chdhta Suraj Dheerey Dheerey,
Jhoom Barabar Jhoom Sharabi are some of most popular Qawwalis.
In the 70s and 80s, the popularity of Qawwalis
made it a regular part of Indian films. Inclusion of a Qawwali in the
film guaranteed its success. Therefore, some popular Qawwalis were
included in films. Later, film producers encouraged film singers to sing Qawwali
and Mohammad Rafi, Manna Dey, Shakila Bano Bhopali sang Qawwalis that
were different from traditional Qawwali and were known as filmi Qawwali.
Interestingly, even Kishore Kumar tried to sing some Qawwalis for films.
By the end of the century, Qawwali
lost its popularity though some qawwals are still there like Rahat Fateh Ali
Khan and Hussain Brothers but Qawwali does not enjoy the popularity it
It is intriguing that though Sufi shrines
in the sub continent are popular among the masses Qawwali is not. The
government also does not have any scheme to promote Qawwali though it is
a powerful carrier of the message of peace and harmony. Occasionally, some
organisations and institutions take steps to promote and revive this dying
tradition. For example, in October 2018, Shivaji University, Kolhapur organised
a national inter University Qawwali competition. But such endeavours are
rare. The West Bengal government has launched a project under which it gives
honorarium to folk artistes and singers but Qawwali has not been
included in the category of folk arts. Qawwali should be included in the
project to save this art. The Indian government should take steps to revive and
promote the tradition of Qawwali which originated in Indian soil.
S. Arshad is a regular columnist for
New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in
Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In
Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women
in West, Islam Women and Feminism