Qawwali - A Musical Journey
The film is a musical journey through the childhood memories of director and producer, Jay Bajaj.
For centuries, early orthodox Islam had been fearful of the corrupting influence of music. But in the seventh century, Sufis, a Muslim sect with millions of adherents all over the world, embraced the sensual side of music in a quest for total transcendence. In the twelfth century, Qawaali originated in India from Qual, or the mystical sayings of Sufi saints, and based on the Indian classical musical structures of Tal & Rag.
Qawwali has a religious function: to arouse mystical love, even divine ecstasy, and the core experience of Sufism. The texts deal with divine love (ishq), the sorrow of separation (hijr or firaq) and the union (visal).
Qawaali, which means "utterance" in Arabic, became the musical medium through which the Sufis of Pakistan and India traveled toward a state of mystical bliss. Soon, their followers too began to practice such musical transcendence. At the same time, it remains an important part of the secular cultural tradition, and Qawaali musicians are some of the most popular performers in India.
Qawaali was introduced and became popular in the West largely through the efforts of Peter Gabriel's WOMAD (World of Music and Dance) in 1985. Since then it has enjoyed mainstream success on MTV and the CBC, been featured in the soundtracks to several Hollywood films, including the Last Temptation of Christ, Dead Man Walking and The Bandit Queen, and received profiles in Rolling Stone magazine and most recently, Wire magazine.
In this documentary, Jay accompanies Hayat Nizami - whose family has been performing Qawaali for five generations - and his group of Qawaals through Delhi, the capital of India, as they go in for a recording session, talk about their music and share its importance in their lives, and sing at different historical locations around the city. The film paints a vivid picture in sound and sight of the music, its history, and its home.
In their entirety, Qawaali songs can last upward of one hour, representing the truly ecstatic and improvisational character of the music. To further showcase the dynamic power of the Qawaals and their transcendent and popular songs, audio CDs will be released as an accompanying feature of the documentary. Please join us on our musical journey, and be entertained, informed and educated.
As Jay Bajaj comments, "I hope the audience enjoys the journey as much as I have."