An evening of Sufi and Qawwali music in Bengaluru

Nizami Bandhu bring the 750-year-old legacy of Sufi and Qawwali music in a performance in the city

Source: An evening of Sufi and Qawwali music in Bengaluru

By  Ranjani Govind

March 21, 2019 12:17 IST
Updated: March 21, 2019 16:22 IST

Nizami Bandhu from the Sikandra Gharana boasts of a 750-year-old legacy. Led by Ustad Chand Nizami with Shadab Faridi Nizami and Sohrab Faridi Nizami, the artisteswill perform at a fund raiser for the Indian Foundation for the Arts (IFA) in Bengaluru on March 22. “We will perform songs by Bulleh Shah, Rumi, Amir Khusro, saints Meera, Kabir and Surdas,” says Chand Nizami in his Urdu-laced Hindi over the phone from Delhi. “We dedicate our programme to the IT capital, Bengaluru where work-stressed professionals and music lovers can mingle with the mystics for a meditative session.”

Speaking about how happy they are to come to Bengaluru, Akshay KR Singh, Art Director, Nizami Bandhu, says “Although the Nizami Brothers make two to three visits a year to the city, we look forward to public events to share our historical legacy.”

Speaking about the team that comprises descendants of qawwals who served the Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya, Chand says Sufi music is known for its khayal gayaki in qawwali. The families continue to live near the Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah in New Delhi and sing at the shrine. “Our ancestors include musical giants such as Ustad Mehmood Nizami and Ustad Ghulam Farid Nizami. From the age of eight I sang at the Dargah with my father and grandfather. The performances would often go on for five to six hours. I considered this my worship and riyaaz. My sons, Gulfam and Gulkhan, have been training in Hindustani classical.”

Tracing the history of qawwali, Akshay says, the King at that time had asked Sufi musician, poet and scholar, Amir Khusro, to challenge the visiting poets in his court. Khusro asks for time to come up with a befitting poetic retort. The next day Khusro brings a huge group of children whom he trained to reply in verse as an appropriate jawaab!

“The 650 members of the Nizami Bandhu family trace their lineage to these children who were trained by Khusro nearly seven centuries ago,” he says.

The essence of sufiyana kalaam (the lyrics of Sufi) is oneness, while qawwali is about ruhaniyat (appeal to the soul) and insaaniyat (humanity). “Qawwali is derived from the Arabic word ‘qual’ (to say) originally sung in Persian and written by Khusro, a poet at the court of more than seven rulers of the Delhi Sultanate and a disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya. Qawwali follows a stylistic format and is part of Sufi where instruments such as harmonium, kaanch, dafli, dhol and tabla are also used in the renditions for conversing with the peer (spiritual guide).”

Does taking Sufi music from shrines to auditoriums diminish it? “It is appropriate for the time and way to reach out to people to explain our renditions in Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi, from many saints who believed in oneness of humanity that rests in our hearts,” says Chand.

The modern renditions of Qawwali are entertaining. Chand says, “Our vibrant claps, percussive beats and energetic singing may seem modern, but they are contemplative verses steeped in spirituality. Present day audiences need people who can make Sufi and Qawwali accessible. Sabri Brothers and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan transported qawwalis across the globe,” says Chand singing the verse they sing in the dargah even today, “jab tak bika na tha, koi puchta na tha, tumne kharid kar, mujhe anmol bana diya” (your blessings have made me reach people, nobody knew me before that).

Sufi music and Qawwali has made its presence felt in Hindi cinema through the ages. Akshay says AR Rahman’s compositions for Rockstar and Jodha Akbar reveal how the form remain current even now. Nizami Bandhu’s ‘Kun Faya Kun’ from Rockstar is very much in demand at all concerts. “This song made people refer to us as ‘rockstar qawwals,’” says Chand.

An evening of Sufi music is on March 22 at 7.30 pm at Chowdiah Memorial Hall. Tickets are available on Call 23414681/82/83

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