August Issue 2013

By | Newsliners | Published 11 years ago

Farid Ayaz and Abu Muhammad of the Qawwal Bachchon Ka Gharana have been very busy this summer with their tour of America and various performances for local TV channels. But they took time out from their itinerary on July 19 for a fundraiser at the Royal Rodale in Karachi. With proceeds going to the Rahat Kada hospice, where cancer and AIDs patients are provided free healthcare, the event began with the junior qawwals from the troupe giving the first performance. Farid Ayaz and Abu Muhammad watched from the sides as the young men, some still in their teens, commanded the audience’s attention as the guests slowly filled the banquet room.

When the brothers finally took centre stage they revealed that they had deliberately asked the juniors to inaugurate the show so that they would receive the audience’s blessings in Ramazan. Then, starting with the naat ‘Mere Banne Ki Baat Na Poocho,’ the two esteemed qawwals proved why they enjoy worldwide acclaim. Their voices reverberated through the hall as they followed the naat with a nasheed, a qaul (which is normally sung at the beginning of a qawwali) and Bulleh Shah’s ‘Tere Ishq Nachaya.’ A testament to their professionalism, the performers didn’t miss a beat even during a brief power outage and continued singing without the aid of the speaker system. Not only that, during the second power outage, which lasted a few seconds, Farid Ayaz got caught playfully pinching one of the younger boys just as the lights turned back on.

Sadly, the qawwals did not perform ‘Kangna,’ the song they performed for Coke Studio which became so popular that it led Indian filmmaker Mira Nair to include an 8-minute performance of it in her film The Reluctant Fundamentalist. But the qawwal party gave little cause to complain and, perhaps because it was a relatively low-key event, the younger singers were frequently given the opportunity to showcase their skills. Twenty-one-year-old Hamza Akram, a nephew of the two ustads, stood out in particular with his powerful alaps and he is currently being groomed by Farid Ayaz himself to be the next face of the gharana.

The transcendental performances ended around 2 am, after which the organisers, rather anti-
climactically, held a lucky draw and thanked the various sponsors. The guests were then treated to a delicious halwa puri sehri. However, it was disappointing that the organisers did not formally thank the qawwals in their speech and since the qawwali had ended with a dua, the qawwals walked off stage rather unceremoniously without any round of applause from the audience as a final note of appreciation. In addition, it was also somewhat disconcerting to see Abu Muhammad and Farid Ayaz standing in line at the buffet and humbly eating in different corners of the room while the waiters made several trips to serve two of the organisers food at their seats. This lack of courtesy left a bitter taste in the mouth to what was otherwise a night of divine music.

Zehra Nabi is a graduate student in The Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at Newsline and The Express Tribune.