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This is a treatment of Qawwali music that I’ve never heard before.
Qawwali music is constructed around very few instruments: usually a harmonium, a tabla or dholak, percussive clapping. On top of this is an improvised main melody which is accented with repetition from a backing ‘party’ of vocalists. While the melodies, momentum and construction of narrative in qawwali is quite complex, the simple nature of the band lends the genre to integration with other musical forms. Of course this easy to say now that Nusrat has laid the groundwork for it all. Nusrat first merged qawwali tonally with North Indian classical, then collaborated with musicians in many genres, most notably rock. Salman Ahmad joined Nusrat’s qawwali party playing the electric guitar, before using his learnings from this time to create the canonical qawwali rock band Junoon. Qawwali rock remains a popular genre to this day, nearly three decades later.
This particular song however, was novel for me in its transposition of qawwali with electronic dance music. What is particularly clever about this recording is how it removes the traditional pauses between vocal phrases delivered from different qawwals, consequently speeding up the qawwali without the words themselves being delivered any faster. The result is an upbeat, new take on a familiar vocal style.
h/t Amad Mian of Dastaangoi. Amad recently interviewed me regarding Hamnawa for Dastaangoi, I’d love to hear your feedback.