Sufi Expression in Bollywood Films

Sufis at the Cinema: 50 Years of Bollywood Qawwali & Sufi Song 1958-2007
Various Artists

Sufis at the Cinema: 50 Years of Bollywood Qawwali & Sufi Song 1958-2007 (Times Square Records, 2011)

I have to admit a fascination with Qawwali, the Sufi devotional music of southern Asia, and Sufis at the Cinema: 50 Years of Bollywood Qawwali & Sufi Song 1958-2007 certainly hits the spot. This two CD set is a wealth of the bright and shiny in Qawwali music found in such movies as Al Hilal, Mughal-e-Azam, Junoon, Henna and Anwar. Dipping into the past and flying forward on the joyful sounds of Qawwali, Sufis at the Cinema marks the rise of the tradition throughout the in popular culture and film in truly delightful fashion.

With tracks like “Humen To Loot Liya” by Ismail Azad Qawwal & Party; the fabulously rich “Teri Mehfil Mein Kismat Azmakar” with Lata Mangeshkar & Shamshad Begum; the passionate “Yeh Ishq Ishq” with Manna Dey, Batish, Sudha Malhotra & Chorus from the 1960 film Barsat Ki Raat and the sumptuously lovely “Main Idhar Jaon Ya Udhar Jaon” from the 1967 film Palki by Mohd. Rafi, Manna Dey, Asha Bhosle & Chorus packing the opening CD one can almost swim in the swirling compositions.

Equal parts of rhythmic drumming and soaring vocals and joyful chant this opening CD is a treasure trove of goodies. Other gems include Yusuf Azad Qawwal, Rashida Khatoon & Chorus’ “Besharm Ashiq Hain from the 1972 film Putlibai and aziz Nazan & Party’s version of “Jhoom Barabar Jhoom from the 1974 film 5 Rifles.

The second CD opens with “Haq Ali” by Qawwali’s gold standard Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, taken from the 1981 film Nakhuda. Just as powerful as the first CD, the second explores such gems as Reshma’s “Lambi Judai” from the 1983 film Hero, Mohd. Aziz & Chorus’ “Marhaba Sayyedi” from the 1990 Henna and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s “Zindaigi Jhoom Kar” from the film Aur Pyar Ho Gaya and his “Ishq Da Rutba” from the 1999 film Kartoos.

Jagjit Singh’s “Ishq Kya Hai” from the film Taj Mahal – A Monument of Love deserves special mention for its lush sensuality and superior composition. Other artists include the stellar Wadali Brothers, Rahat Fetah Ali Khan (Nusrat’s nephew” and Roop Kumar Rashod with his inexpressibly lovely closing track “Moula Mere Moula” from the 2007 film Anwar.

Chocked full of hypnotic tracks and a CD booklet full of movie images and liner notes about the films, Sufis at the Cinema is well worth the trip into the Sufi expression in Bollywood film for Qawwali fans.

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