Performer and teacher Tahir Qawwal has spent many years immersed in the tradition of Qawwali in Pakistan.
Performer and teacher Tahir Qawwal has spent many years immersed in the tradition of Qawwali in Pakistan. aalok photography

Tahir Qawwal's music, from the East with love

MUSIC of the Mystics is a concert of Qawwali (Sufi Muslim) music by Sufi musician Tahir Qawwal, who is coming back to Byron Bay this weekend.

Canadian-born performer and teacher Tahir Qawwal has spent many years immersed in the tradition of Qawwali, in the homes of his teachers and at mehfils (musical spiritual gatherings) in Pakistan.

He is well respected for carrying the tradition of Qawwali music to the West and connecting people to a spiritually rich piece of Pakistan.

Praises to The Divine

In the performance, a chorus of vocalists sing praises 'to the Divine' in poetry and improvisation, accompanied by intricate percussion rhythms.

Tahir Qawwal said a message of peace and unity is at the heart of Sufi mysticism and music and it is important for him to bring that message to the West.

"It comes from me being completely in love with this spiritual journey, the music and the tradition it comes form," he said.

"From that love and respect comes my yearning to share it in places where people don't normally have the opportunity to experience it."

Documentary

Tahir Qawwal is also completing a documentary called Music of the Mystics, a film about the culture of Qawwali.

A selection of footage from the movie will be screened at tomorrow night's concert, which contains footage from Sufi masters shot at shrines and sacred music gatherings.

Each year, Tahir Qawwal tours throughout the USA and Canada with his group Fanna-Fi-Allah, as well as in India and Pakistan.

Once a year, Byron Shire's community is treated to a Qawwali music concert with a talented crew of musicians, including tabla player Yama Sarshar (Sydney/Afghanistan).

At the Byron Theatre, 69 Jonson St, tomorrow Friday at 8pm.

What is Qawwali music? 

Sufism, according to its adherents, is the inner mystical dimension of Islam.

Sufi orders are largely Sunni and follow one of the four schools of Sunni Islam and maintain a Sunni Aqidah or creed.

Classical Sufi scholars have defined Sufism as "a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God".

Qawwali is a form of Sufi devotional music popular in Pakistan, India, and many parts of Bangladesh.

Delhi's Sufi saint Amir Khusro Dehlavi of the Chisti order of Sufis is credited with fusing the Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and Indian musical traditions to create Qawwali in late 13th century India.

The songs which constitute the Qawwali repertoire are primarily in Urdu and Punjabi, but some from the Mughal era are also in Persian .

The poetry is implicitly understood to be spiritual in its meaning, even though the lyrics can sometimes sound wildly secular, or outright hedonistic.

The central themes of Qawwali are love, devotion and the longing of man for the Divine.

A group of Qawwali musicians, called a party (or Humnawa in Urdu), typically consists of eight or nine men including a lead singer, one or two side singers, one or two harmoniums, and percussion.



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