Recorded at Dilli Haat, New Delhi on November 3, 2006
Video Produced by Sudev Sheth,
Directed and Edited by Ani Gupta
an UnderscoreRecords.com presentation
By Sudev Sheth
Original video & article published in 2006 by Underscore Records, Pvt. Ltd. (Delhi, India)
Hailing from a family of musicians now based in Karachi (Pakistan), Fareed Ayaz belongs to the group of hereditary performers of qawwali at Nizamuddin Auliya’s shrine in Delhi. Qawwali can be categorized as a song genre of Hindustani semi-classical music that is set to mystical Sufi poetry in Farsi, Hindi, Persian, Punjabi, and Urdu. Historically, this type of music was performed in smaller assemblies at the dargahs, or shrines, of the respected Sufi leaders. Since the early eighties, however, the likes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Sabri Brothers have brought qawwali to the masses by performing outside of the dargah. It is important to note that as a genre, qawwali is marked by its vast internal variation in musical and lyrical understanding, performance, and repertoire. Different musicians performing the same song can and do sound very different. More importantly, a troupe will change their presentation of the same song depending on variable factors such as time, audience, place, and setting.
This video, recorded at a public concert in New Delhi, presents a medley of different sounds that characterize qawwali as taught by the Late Munshi Raziuddin. Munshi Raziuddin was a respected musician and scholar who diligently taught his sons Fareed Ayaz (video right) and Abu-Muhammad (video left) until his death at the age of 93. In the first piece, Fareed Ayaz presents his interpretation of an encounter that he believes took place between two iconic figures in South Asian musical history–-Gopal Nayak and Amir Khusrau. Legend has it that a music competition in a king’s court had come down to the two aforementioned finalists. Gopal Nayak sang a song in Sanskrit hoping to baffle Khusrau. Khusrau replied by singing a similar melody with Persian vocalic syllables as Sanskrit substitutes. These Persian vocalic syllables came to be later known as tarana. Fareed Ayaz sings both versions commenting that Khusrau’s response was prized because it was limited in words and was able to be reproduced by the young musicians, or the qawwal bacche, of the time.
Having trained in Hindustani classical music, Fareed Ayaz’s music also includes features of khayal singing. This is especially true in the interludes between verses. For example, the second piece begins with a short aalaap and tarana in Raag Bihag before moving back into the main medley. The main song is a stanza from Khusrau’s famous poem Chhapa Tilak Sab Cheeni. This particular poem was written in reverence to Khusrau’s spiritual guide (peer) Nizamuddin Auliya. The verse sung here is:
Bal Bal Jaaon Mein Toray Rang Rajwa
Apnisee Rang Leeni Ray Mosay Naina Milaikay
The last item of the video is the popular dhamaal. This ritual is characterized by ecstatic and uncontrolled swirling of the head and body accompanied by strong punctuations in the rhythm. This type of dance and rhythmic trance is characteristic of the music at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. In this segment of the clip, Fareed Ayaz’s younger brother and son are on the tabla and dholak, respectively, and conclude the recital with variations in the qawwali thekha, or the metric pattern of eight beats (4 + 4).