Sunday, February 12, 2012

Guest Post: An Introduction to Filmi Qawwali

These are exciting times! Tonight I am thrilled to introduce the Washerman's Dog first guest post.  Deewani, a huge lover of music has kindly agreed to share her passion for that captivating genre of Indian music, film qawwali. So let me scaddadle out of the way and let the show begin!

Qawwali's origins go back about eight centuries, therefore it is one of the most ancient forms of music in the world. Surprisingly in all that time it had remained mostly unchanged; until, that is, this last century and the introduction of the motion picture industry to India, resulting in a form of Qawwali known as "Filmi Qawwali". This is, of course, a corruption of everything that Sufi Qawwali stands for. In essence a qawwali is a form of Sufi devotional music taking the form of a love song to the Almighty. In many qawwalis, the qawwal (traditionally being male) takes on a feminine gender so that to the casual listener, it would seem the qawwali is about a woman singing about her undying love for her lover. This quality is probably what opened the door to it's adapation to the Filmi Qawwali form. While Sufi qawwalis are about Ishq-Haqeeqi where the lover is man and the beloved is God, Filmi Qawwalis are often about Ishq-Majazi, the love of a man for woman, or vice versa.  I believe that traditional qawwali is best perceived with one's ears whereas the enjoyment of Filmi Qawwali is enhanced by its "picturization". So I have created a playlist for your enjoyment.  

The basic elements of a qawwali are as follows. Qawwalis are performed by a Qawwali Party which can consist of as little as 2 singers (Qawwals) but in most cases there are around 6 to 10 people in the party with many of the members related to each other. Lead vocals are performed by the head of the party. There may be a main backup singer, but most or all of the members of the party participate in singing chorus. The vocals start off very slow, usually with an alaap taking the form of a piece of poetry. Then the qawwal works his way into the subject of the qawwali, as he does so his voice becomes louder and he starts to sing faster and faster until the very end where he comes to what I call the "punch line" or resolution of the qawwali for which he slows down once again. The slow build up to an ecstatic frenzy means that some traditional qawwalis can last for more than an hour. Often this is the result of improvisational singing with the qawwal blending folk lyrics with the lyrics of the great poets: Amir Khusrao, Baba Bulleh Shah, Kabir, Khawaja Ghulam Farid, Shah Hussain, Sultan Bahu and Waris Shah being the most popular. A qawwali can be in any of these languages: Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Arabic, or Persian. The traditional use of the sarangi (for melody) and dholaks (for beat) have been replaced in more modern times with the harmonium and the tablas. Human hands also play a part as no qawwali is complete unless there is rhythmic, synchronized clapping. Facial expressions accompanied by hand gestures help to convey the message. The leader of the Qawwali Party can also use his hands to conduct the music, letting his musicians know when to take it down a notch so he can emphasize his delivery. As the qawwal's vocals build, the music follows along with dramatic pauses where necessary.

The music directors (composers) of the Indian film industry were quick to adapt this popular form of music for their musicals. The first motion picture came to India in the 1930s and soon after Filmi Qawwali was born. This new genre made history in 1945 with what is believed to be the first instance of a female qawwali Party singing on celluloid: legends Noor Jehan, Zohrabai Ambalewali, & Kalyani Mitra singing Aahein Na Bhari Shikwa Na Kiye from the film Zeenat. In the same year came Tu Ne Dekha Ik Nazar Aur Dil Chaska Kar Diya from the film Gaon Ki Gori (Village Girl). This qawwali was inspired by the poetry of Mirza Ghalib. Women were mostly forbidden in ancient times from singing traditional qawwali so this was a big deal.

(Women's qawwali)
Along with the usual lineup of playback singers, some traditional Sufi qawwals sometimes appeared on the soundtracks as well. Qawwals like Jani Babu Qawwal, Aziz Nazan, Yusuf Azad Qawwal, and Majeed Shola. Further blurring the line between blasphemy and authenticity, many Filmi Qawwalis quoted the Sufi poets in their alaaps. Others adapted traditional Sufi Qawwalis. One example of this is Na Tau Caravan Ki Talash Hai from Barsat Ki Rat, this tune was inspired by Fateh Ali Khan's (father of Nusrat Fateh Ali KhanNa Tau Butkade Ki Talab Hai. In films, qawwalis can be used to advance the plot. They are often seen at a concert performance or during a celebration like a wedding or a birthday or some other mehfil.

Qawwali's influence on modern music has become so pervasive that samples of qawwali music (both Sufi and Filmi) can now be heard all around the world showing up in hip hop and dance numbers alike. I would say that it was Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan that brought qawwali to the world stage, his influence reaching it's height in the 90s. Always improvising and experimenting with his genre, he inspired and worked with many Western artists before his death. He also had a few Bollywood numbers to his credit, even appearing in the "picturization" of Koi Jaane Koi Na Jaane in Aur Pyar Ho Gaya. It was about time too because the 90s saw many Filmi Qawwalis "inspired" by his Sufi Qawwalis. 

Just as traditional Sufi qawwalis can be categorized by their content. So too Filmi Qawwalis can be categorized. There are the qawwalis that serve as cautionary tales to avoid love. Yeh Ishq Nahin Aasaan (Love is not easy) and Yeh Maana Meri Jaan, Mohabbat Sazaa Hai (Yes, I agree, my love, that love is a punishment) from Hanste Zakhm are such tunes. Ke Chand Sa Koi Chehra Na Pehlu Mein Ho from Sholay and Kaise Hai Tere Ishq Mein Deewana Dekh Le (Come and see what has become of me in love) from Parbat Ke Us Paar reveal the "anjaam" (consequence) of falling in love. Mehangai Maar Gayee (Inflation has defeated me) from Roti Kapada Aur Makaan took it one step further singing about the problems of everyday life.

Then there are the qawwalis that preach the art of seduction, wooing the beloved. Pardah Hai Pardah, Parde Ke Peeche Pardanasheen Hai, Pardanasheen Ko Be-Pardah Na Kar Doon Tau Akbar Mera Naam Nahin Hai (Behind the veil is a veiled beauty. If I do not make her drop her veil, then Akbar is not my name). One of the great lyricists of the Hindi film industry, Anand Bakshi makes fantastic use of alliteration to enhance this lovely number from Amar Akbar Anthony.  This would be number one on my playlist, however the Washerman's Dog has already hosted it. :) 

In a similar vein is Pari Ho Asmaani Tum, Magar Tum Ko Tau Paana Hai (You may be an angel from the sky, but I must win you over) from Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai. Then there is Hai Agar Dushman Yeh Zamaana, Gham Nahin, Koi Aaye Hum Kisi Se Kum Naheen (If the entire world becomes my enemy, I don't lament it, let anyone come, I am not less than anyone else) from Hum Kisi se Kum Naheen.  Laila Majnu's Yeh Deewane Ki Zid Hai, Apne Deewane Ke Khatir Aa (This is the persistence of a man made mad in love, for your beloved's sake, make an appearance) in which the singer compares his love for his beloved to his love for God. Many celebrate the beauty of love and praise friendship like Qurbani Qurbani Allah Ko Pyari Hai from Qurbani and Yaari Hai Imaan Mera Yaar Meri Zindagi from Zanjeer

The most famous type of Filmi Qawwali is probably the "muqabala", where two Qawwali Parties duel with words. In films that usually means a battle of the sexes (for when the honeymoon is over). Chandi Ka Badan Sone Ki Nazar from Taj MahalMain Woh Chanda Nahin from Katilon Ke Kaatil and Tum Nahin Yaan Hum Nahin from Karmayogi are such songs. An all-female muqabala can be seen in the video for Teri Mehfil Mein Kismat Aazmakar Hum Bhi Dekhenge from Mughal-e-Azam.

Probably the most blasphemous form of Filmi Qawwalis are those that celebrate intoxication like Jhoom Barabar Jhoom Sharaabi from 5 RiflesSharaab Hai Shabab Hai from Aatish, and Zaalim Meri Sharaab Mein from Reshma Aur Shera. Also those that blur the line between Filmi Qawwali and mujra like Sachchai Chhup Nahin Sakti (Vaada Tera Vaada) from Dushman and Kaise Mukhde Se Nazrein Hataon Ke Tujhe Mein Hai Rab Dikh Da from English Babu Desi Mem which is inspired by Nusrat's Kivein Mukhre Taun Nazran Hatawan, Ke Tere Vichon Rab Disda. 
Filmi Qawwali "Mixtape"

1 Ke Chand Sa Koi Chehra - Sholay    
2 Pari Ho Aasmani Tum - Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai  
3 Hum Kisi Se Kum Naheen - Hum Kisise Kum Naheen  
4 Qurbani Qurbani - Qurbani  
5 Yaari Hai Imaan Mera - Zanjeer  

Vol. 1 Listen here.

6 Mehangai Maar Gayee - Roti Kapada Aur Makaan  
7 Yeh Deewane Ki Zid Hai - Laila Majnu  
8 Yeh Ishq Nahin Aasaan - Yeh Ishq Nahin Aasaan  
9 Jhoom Barabar Jhoom Sharaabi - 5 Rifles  
10 Chandi Ka Badan - Taj Mahal  
11 Haan Yeh Maana Meri Jaan - Hanste Zakhm  
12 Kaisa Hai Tere Ishq Mein - Parbat Ke Us Paar  
13 Sachchai Chhup Nahin Sakti - Dushmun  
14 Tum Nahin Ya Hum Nahin - Karmayogi  
15 Main Woh Chanda Nahin - Katilon Ke Kaatil  

Vol 2. Listen here.

16 Aaja Aaja Yaar Habibi - Nakhuda
17 Sharaab Hai Shabaab Hai - Aatish    
18 Kaise Mukhde Se Nazrein - English Babu Desi Mem  
19 Pal Do Pal Ka Saath Hamara - The Burning Train  
20 Mujhe Ishq Ho Gaya - Parampara  
21 Nahi Hona Tha (Ho Gaya Hai Mujhe Pyar) - Pardes  

Vol 3 Listen here. 


Barron said...

Wow! What a terrific post! Very educational writeup, music, and video to boot.

Well done, and thank you so much. My listening is planned out for the day--perhaps several days.

deewani said...

Thanks for the kind introduction ajnabi.

Thanks Barron, I'm glad you enjoyed it, I hope you enjoy the music as well. :)

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