by Zubeida Mustafa
Last night I went to a mehfil-e-qawwali. It is impossible for me to describe the beauty and the exquisiteness of the performance. It was other-worldly, if I may use this term. But that is how I have always found Fareed Ayaz-Abu Mohammad and his brothers’ renderings. They hold one qawwali session every year in memory of their father, the legendary Munshi Raziuddin Qawwal, who died eight years ago.
I wish more qawwalis were organised as they send listeners in a trance and I am certain that has a pacifying effect on the agitated and angry ones among them. Wouldn’t it reduce violence in our society.. Music is good for the soul, it is said.
But I wish those who organise qawwalis would be mindful of punctuality. The card for last night’s performance said “from 8.30 pm onwards”. It started at 10 am with an excellent introduction. The qawwali itself began much later. It was later interrupted when Nasreen Jalil presented a bouquet to Fareed Sahib. I had to leave at midnight because I had promised my driver that I would leave then. He had a difficult journey ahead of him on his motor bike to Korangi which entails the hazards of robbers and police harassment. I just didn’t want to leave the qawwali but beggars can’t be choosers. I believe there was a short documentary that was screened later with the performance ending at 1.30 am.
The performance was at the Marriott in Karachi. Very good arrangement – they remembered that many qawwali lovers like others have had knee replacements and just cannot sit on the floor. So chairs were thoughtfully lined along the wall. But they forgot that to sit on the farsh one has to remove one’s footwear. The mountains of shoes and sandals made me wonder why every guest could not have been handed a plastic bag to place one’s footwear in and keep beside her/him! — Z.M.