“[Qawwali] is samaa and you cannot participate

in it without adhering to its adaab.”

–Farid Ayaz

 

The leading duo: Qawwal Farid Ayaz and Abu Muhmmad

 

Qawwali is one of the many genres of sub-continental music. The roots of Qawwali are traced back to thirteen century. And the art of Qawwali is credited to Ameer Khusraw (1244-1325). Today, Qawwali is one of the most listened to genre of music. But what makes Qawwali so appealing? Normally, Qawwali stimulates religious devotion and a sense of spiritual closeness to God. However, the content of Qawwali not necessarily is limited to this. Many qawwalis also praise religious teachers and saints. For instance, Khusraw’s copious output is attributed to his spitritual love for his sufi mentor Nizam ad-Din Awliya.

Though the lyrics of Qawwali were largely based on the works of Sufi saints of the past, Amir Khusrau’s corpus of work was and continues to be regularly employed in these performances. Noteworthy is the fact that up until the end of the nineteenth century, such performances were restricted mainly to sufi shrines and would be attended by male members only. However, the modernity that the 20th century brought with it also took Qawwali from such isolated locations to the marketplace. Today, many qawwal gharanas are able to continue the tradition of Qawwali because of its commodification, which ultimately led to its commercialization.