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Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Quest (Dis)Continues

Picture at the T2F Qavvaali by Sadaf Zubairi

The DAWN magazine today featured a piece on Qavvaali (or Qawali) held as part of PeaceNiche's new Qavvaali Project. This will be a project that will save, for posterity, loads of bandishes that we may be 'losing', with fewer qavvaals performing them these days.

The singers will be the top qavvaals, like Fareed Ayaz and others, who will sing at T2F this year. Children of famous qavvaals like Manzoor Niazi Sahab, Bahauddin Sahab and the young members of Fareed/Abu group and others (hopefully Subhan, too) will also be performing on separate occasions.

There were some things in the article that a few of us did not necessarily like (but that's just my friends and I - great qavvaali lovers - I guess). One specific part was really terrible:
Ayaz’s father, Ustad Ahmed Khan, knotted skull caps when he had migrated from India. Ayaz was born in 1949 in Pakistan, where he grew up fending for his family and learning music. He was less known as a qawal until Coke Studio invited Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad with their group for an in-studio recording that reflected ‘the depth of musical diversity’ in Pakistan. 
Though the group has been performing abroad, especially in Tehran, they lately hit headlines in India and Pakistan when they performed for a peace initiative in Ajmer at the shrine of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti.
Fareed Ayaz's father was Ustad Raziuddin Ahmed Khan (known as Munshi Ji by almost everyone, because he was a Munshi Fazil). He performed for many years in Hyderabad Deccan. Munshi Ji was an excellent Qavvaal and a classical singer, as well as a great ustaad. One of his students (a son-in-law and nephew) is Ustad Nasiruddin Saami - a brilliant singer himself, who was also seen in Coke Studio.

In 1956 Munshi Ji led the vocals in the Manzoor Niazi group along with Manzoor Sahab, Bahauddin Sahab, and Iftekhar Sahab. (Farid, according to the article, was then 7 …)

Their recordings were sold by EMI (think of the wonderful pieces you can hear in their Amir Khusrau's death anniversary records). They performed internationally. Fareed was heard on Sitar at that time, before he began his qavvaali singing. Nasiruddin was heard in the qavvaali, something he occasionally does in a few houses now, with his sons. Abu joined much later and has become a tremendous singer.

My collection of Munshi Ji and his son's recordings goes way back to 1960s - and we have had them in performances at home and abroad. Manzoor Niazi and Bahauddin have been great singers with their own sons. These other groups were formed once the parties became too big to stay in as one large group. Many of them sing the same pieces in their own way and add many new pieces that suit their styles better.

To say that Fareed & Abu were less known as a qawwaal before Coke Studio is obviously the idea of a person who may never have really heard them before. As for not being well known, all of these qawwal bachas have performed all over the world - a little search on YouTube will show many old and new recordings. They have performed several times in India, USA, UK, and in other places. Perhaps talking to their thousands of fans here (and abroad) will also convince the writer that he has been completely misled by what he found out and wrote. Maybe what he meant was about their being well-known among the Coke Studio audience, although their three performances at Indus Valley School were crowded by young listeners.

The fact that all Qavvaal Bacchaas sing Persian, Purbi, Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi, Seraiki, Sindhi and other languages is remarkable. As qawwaals Munshi Raziuddin and his cousins were among the greatest exponents, along with Sabri Brothers and Nusrat's father and uncle (Mubarak Ali & Fateh Ali) who used to sing way before Nusrat hit the world with his marvellous pieces.

I attended the burial of Munshi Ji in 2003 and I miss him like crazy at all the sessions of Fareed and Abu. I hope the next generation will see Moiz and Hamza and others take this gharaana much further.

The wonderful Qavvaali collection by Citibank, which featured Munshi Ji, Manzoor Sahab, and Bahauddin Sahab, never really got launched properly — although bootleg versions are now available everywhere (but, sadly, without the lovely book that was in the original and beautifully boxed set).

Maybe a little research - even in Wikipedia - would be of help for the author in Dawn to understand what this group is like: Here's a piece from there:
Munshi Raziuddin Ahmed Khan (1912 - 2003) was a renowned Pakistani Qawwal and classical musician in India and Pakistan and a researcher of music. He belongs to the best-known gharana of Qawwali, Qawwal Bachchon Ka Gharana of Delhi. Initially, he performed in the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad. However, after the fall of Hyderabad, he moved to Pakistan. 
In 1956, he formed Munshi Raziuddin, Manzoor Niazi & Brothers, along with his cousins, Bahauddin Qawwal and Manzoor Niazi. This ensemble lasted until 1966. After 1966, Munshi Raziuddin turned to solo work, forming his own Qawwali party, and was successful until his death. Munshi Raziuddin was succeeded by his sons, Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad, who perform as Fareed Ayaz Qawwal.
My recordings of Munshi Ji singing with his sons at a session a few weeks before his death - made especially for my company (b.i.t.s.) and its team that adored him - are impeccable and are available at T2F.

Many people who love Munshi Ji, his cousins, his sons, and the entire qavvaalee idiom can be found at this place on Facebook. Lovely qavvaalees from old qavvaals are available there.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Darkened to oppose SOPA