Subhan Nizami: France loves his Qavvaali …
Iftikhar Sahab was a favourite performer of mine and we invited him for an evening of music when I was getting married. Fortunately, despite a really old tape-recorder, I recorded his singing — and it is the only recording of his voice that we find now. I have asked anyone who has any more of his recordings to put them on the Internet. Nothing so far! I have put my recordings on a CD that's available at T2F.
(Lutfullah Khan had one recording of Iftikhar Sahab that he had taken from me. He cleaned it up. It's much better than the version I have, I imagine, but he hardly ever shared his recordings with anyone else. In fact almost several hundred 78s were also copied from our house … but he always said he would not share it until they became public property in a library. I hope they now find a way to share that wonderful set. His recordings are a lovely collection, well documented, and kept remarkably well under his own supervision.)Iftikhar Sahab's ancestor was Ustaad Qutab Bakhsh Khan - known to all of us as Hazrat Tan Ras Khan. (In India, Tan Ras Khan Sahab's family perform Qavvaali, too: Ustaad Meraj Ahmad Nizami and many others.) You must have heard of Ustaad Samat Nizami and Ustaad Tan Ras Sahab from the latter's great-grandchildren (and, now, their children, and their children's children) whenever they perform qavvaali anywhere. Here is a list of Tan Ras Sahab's progeny in Pakistan: Iftikhar Nizami, Munshi Raziuddin Ahmad, Manzoor Niazi, Bahauddin Khan, Afaq Ahmad Nizami, Naseeruddin Saami, Farid Ayaz and Abu Mohammad, Abdullah and Habib Ahmad Niazi, Mohammad Najmuddin and Saifuddin Mahmood, Urooj Saami, Subhan Nizami, and Hamza Akram.
Go through the above list and, yes, you'll find Subhan, too … but there are a lot of chances that you have never really heard him sing. And with the stupid ban of YouTube it is even less likely.
The Dhrupad they listen to is the Dagar Brothers methodology that promotes a Hindu form which was supposedly the original. They don't really accept the Muslim Dhrupad that was introduced by Amir Khusrau which, according to Munshi Raziuddin, is more delightful and far better than the ones that Dagar Brothers sing. But that's your choice. I love both of the forms (and totally adore the Dagar groups). Music, as far as I am concerned, has neither religion nor caste.
Martina Catella, a musicologist, who spent almost 10 years in Pakistan, had earlier released a DVD of Pakistan Qavvaals (Faiz Ali Faiz) and Spanish Flamenco singers/musicians … but has now moved away from them as the Faiz seems to have branched out into all sorts of stuff and she finds them less interested in 'pure music'. She is a complete fan of Subhan, along with Saida Haidar, a great Sufi follower and lover of Sufi Music (and of Lucknow!)
Martina was so impressed by Subhan that she decided to offer him a present in a form of short documentary of 30 min as an intro to his promising career. Here it is, especially for you.
Not only is Subhan's singing marvellous, he also gave - as you saw in the film - qavvaali classes to some French musicians. I am glad he did not say that he is 'the most brilliant singer', as most other singers here very often do, specially when running other singers down.
At his concert in Theatre de la Ville - a prestigious hall in Paris where only really big names are accepted - Subhan gathered 2300 persons in a place where there were only 1600 seats. People were sitting all over the the floor, on the stairs, everywhere. Police had to intervene to stop further entries for security reasons.
In his February 2014 Concert, planned by Radio France, he was booked for one show that would have had 1500 people. This soon became three shows … and all were sold out. That's several months in advance! And people are still writing to Radio France to add another day. Wow!
When Saida said to me that "French and Europeans understand and appreciate more Purbi, Hindi, Urdu, Farsi kalaam than Pakistanis"… it is, in some ways, a fact. She added, "At least they appreciate them and cherish them as a work of art ."
When I asked her about Subhan's performances in Paris, she had lots of things to say. Here is one part of that conversation: "Subhan brings out the best of the Dehli Gharana and it's historical background. In France he is very much appreciated and has a very specific public among Sorbonne professors, Radio and TV professionals, and music students who regularly attend all his performances or rather demand them ."
Subhan's group is the only group - in Pakistan's years of existence - which was ever invited by the Ministry of Culture in France. They were received by the Minister herself, who thanked them several times for being there. (Is that how we treat any musicians coming from anywhere?)
Subhan, himself, is a rather soft spoken young man and never ever promotes himself. He hardly ever speaks, except to people nearer his own age, and told me that speaking to older people was considered impolite in his family, except that when they do, they must do so with total respect. His younger brothers, too, are just as soft spoken — or were, to me. Amazing in today's world!
To end - and to give you an idea of what you are likely to hear on the 20th July (when you absolutely must come to T2F) - here is a piece that you will enjoy. It was performed by Subhan and his group at the Ursé Mubarak of Hazrat Yaqoob Jan Auliya.