American qawwali music ensemble Riyaaz Qawwali is set to perform on Sunday, April 30, 2017 at 7:00 pm at Roulette in New York City.
Riyaaz Qawwali performs the trance-like improvisational Sufi vocal tradition made famous in the West by the late Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, enthralling listeners with its lively rhythms, joyous melodies and inspirational poetry.
In addition to performing traditional qawwali that has been in existence for over 700 years, the ensemble also adds various songs and poetry of South Asia into the qawwali framework, using qawwali as a universal message of oneness that transcends religious boundaries.
Most qawwali ensembles are composed of Muslim family members, but Riyaaz Qawwali, which is based in Texas, is composed of musicians who represent the diversity of South and Central Asia; they are of Indian, Pakistani, Afghani, and Bangladeshi descent, and come from various spiritual backgrounds, including Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism.
The ensemble’s discography includes Kashti and Ishq.
Babu Fakir specializes in Qawwali and Baul/Fakiri songs and is an extremely powerful singer in Fakiri music. Through Qawwali repertoire, he maitains a hundred year old oral tradition that praises both Allah and Lord Krishna. As a Dotara player, he is also renowned for his Kirtan repertoires.
Golam Fakir is an acclaimed singer and Dotara player (an instrument much associated with the musical culture of the Bengali people and highly favored by the Baul). Golam comes from Gorbhanga village located in Nadia District of West Bengal, a state of Eastern India. Golam specializes in Marfati, Murshidi and Qawwali repertoire and is regarded as one of the leading singers in Fakiri music.
News reports from Pakistan indicate that renowned Qawwali musician Amjad Sabri, one of Pakistan’s most well-known Sufi musicians, was shot and killed on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 in the southern city of Karachi.
Amjad Farid Sabri was born on December 23, 1976 and was a member of one of the most famous Qawwali music ensembles in Pakistan, the Sabri Brothers.
The Sabri Brothers is Pakistan’s best known, extraordinarily successful family of devotional Sufi singers, from Kalyana in the East Punjab and with over 30 years of sung religious poetry behind them.
In 2012, Amjad Sabri released a solo album titled Ecstasy of the Soul.
Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood and the Rajasthan Express – Junun (Nonesuch, 2015)
Junun is a spectacular two-disc album that brings together Indian musical traditions, Sufi and Jewish spirituality and western music elements. Israeli musician and composer Shye Ben Tzur collaborated with Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood (England), and the Rajasthan Express, a group of Indian musicians that provide the vibrant brass band and percussion sections as well as mesmerizing Qawwali vocals.
The album was recorded in early 2015 in an improvised studio inside the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, India. Shye Ben Tzur composed the music and used. The lyrics include traditional Sufi poems and original verses by Shye Ben Tzur. The vocals are in Urdu and Hebrew.
American independent filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson made a film also titled Junun that documents the recording sessions as well as the close friendship of artistic collaboration. The impressionistic film debuted at the New York Film Festival in October 2015.
Shye Ben Tzur lives in India and Israel. He composes qawwalis in Hebrew, Urdu, and Hindi. A concert by Indian maestros Zakir Hussain and Hariprasad Chaurasia that Ben Tzur attended as a young man was life-changing. “It touched my heart so deeply,” he says. “It was at the time the deepest musical experience I had gone through. It moved me so that I could do nothing but go find out what it is. I feel I’m still in that spot. I don’t think I have achieved it. Indian music is so vast and so deep and the more I learn different things about it, I realize how ignorant I was. It just doesn’t stop.”
The Junun lineup includes Shye Ben Tzur on vocals, guitar, flute; Jonny Greenwood on guitar, bass, drum machine, computers, ondes martenot and keyboard; Aamir Bhiyani on lead trumpet; Hazmat on tuba; Ajaj Damami on trombone; Sabir Damami on tuba; Soheb Bhiyani on trumpet; Bhanwaru Khan on tuba, Zaki Ali Qawwal on Qawwali vocals; Zakir Ali Qawwal on Qawwali vocals, harmonium; Gufran Ali and Shazib Ali on Qawwali chorus; Ehtisham Khan Ajmeri on Qawwali chorus, dholak (a small double-ended barrel-shaped drum); Chugge Khan on khartal (a type of castanet made of rectangular wooden blocks), bhapang (a one-stringed talking drum), manjira (tiny cymbals); Nihal Khan on dholak; Nathu Lal Solanki and Narsi Lal Solanki on nagara (kettle drum); Asin Khan on sarangi and vocals; Dara Khan on kamaicha (vertically held string instrument); Afshana Khan on vocals; and Razia Sultan on vocals.
Junun is an impressive world music recording featuring splendid timelessly crafted Qawwal devotional songs enriched by a lavish and imaginative production.
Riyaaz Qawwali is set to perform on Saturday, March 19, 2016 at Zankel Hall in New York City. Riyaaz performs the ecstatic improvisational Sufi vocal tradition made famous in the West by the late Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, enthralling listeners with its lively rhythms, joyous melodies and inspirational poetry.
In addition to celebrating the traditional qawwali that has been in existence for over 700 years, the ensemble also weaves various songs and poetry of South Asia into the qawwali framework, using qawwali as a universal message of oneness that transcends religious boundaries.
Most qawwali troupes are composed of Muslim family members, but Riyaaz Qawwali, which is based in Texas, is composed of musicians who represent the diversity of South and Central Asia; they are of Indian, Pakistani, Afghani, and Bangladeshi descent, and come from various spiritual backgrounds, including Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism. The ensemble last appeared in New York at globalFEST 2015 and has an album titled Kashti.
Qawwali musician Sukhawat Ali Khan lives in the USA and adds new elements to the venerable Sufi art. The opening piece on Shukriya, titled “Mustafa,” blends traditional Qawwali sounds such as vocals, tabla and harmonium with electric bass, creating a powerful resonance that enriches the overall sound.
As a young musician, Sukhawat is also influenced by contemporary popular sounds. He uses bhangra and world beat sounds, in addition to the funky electric bass played by African musician Baba Ben Okulolo, to enhance his music.
While some of the pieces are upbeat and festive, combining South Asian percussion with African drums, some of the best material on the CD are the two dreamy cuts titled “Natnarayani (part 1) and (part 2). Sukhawat’s intimate style, accompanied by a hypnotic drone and strings brings the listener a soothing feeling of calm and peace.