Keeping Qawwali tradition alive

Qawwali is a form of Sufi devotional music. It is a traditional form of Islamic song found in India and Pakistan. The word qawwali is derived from the Arabic word ‘Qaol’ which means ‘axiom’. The popularity of qawwali is increasing day by day. There was a time when it was sung only shrines of Sufi saints or darghas but now it this form of music             is also in movies. The people who are fond of listening to qawwalis or sing it say that there is a kind of addiction in it. The beauty of this form of music can’t be explained in words but it is to feel.

There are many Pakistani qawwals which are appreciated internationally and Sher Miandad Khan is one of those. He is not only a qawwal but also a solo singer. He belongs to famous family of Qawwals known as ‘Qawal Bacha Gharana’. His family and forefathers are singing qawwali from last 600 years. Sher Mian Dad Khan extended this centuries old tradition of his family to international level. He is considered one of the greatest voices ever recorded. He possessed an extraordinary range of vocals abilities and could perform at a high level of intensity for several hours. Because of his services in the field of music and qawwali singing he has been awarded various national and international prestigious awards like National Award of Qawali, Nigaar Award, Mahaveer Award (in Delhi), Bhakti Utsav Award, and many other heritage and festival awards. He was also nominated for Sadarti Award. In an interview with Sunday Plus he talked about his career and future projects. Following are the excerpts of his interview:

When did you begin your singing career?

Singing qawwali is my family tradition and I am associated with it in when I was very young. I started singing at the age of 12. I learned different kinds of music including classical music and Qawali as well from my father Ustad Mian Dad Khan. I performed first time when I was 15 years old. I started my solo qawwali group in 1996.

Who has been your inspiration in life?

My father has always been my source of inspiration and I have learned everything from him.

You have performed for few films. How was your experience?

I have performed qawwali in many Hollywood movies like ‘Gazi Ilm Deen Shaheed’ & ‘Allah Shehensha’. As a music director I also composed music for Pakistani film industry for example I composed music for Punjabi movies ‘Akhiyan Udeek Diyan’ and ‘Ucha Naam Pyar Da’. I also performed and composed music for Bollywood movies like ‘Wahgha’.

You have released so many albums. Which is the most hit album?

I have released almost 100 Qawali albums and every album got voluminous response. The album which got instant popularity is ‘Baba dey darbar chiriyan bol Boldiyan’. The other famous albums are Asan Te Fareed Naal Dil Laliya, Data Di Deewani, Raaz diyan Gallan, Mere Allah Menu Maaf kar day, Muahmmed Ke Ghulamo Ka Kafan Maila Nahi Hota, Naseeba Khol De Mera, Nach Malanga, Maa Di Shaan and Waqia Karbala.

Do you keep Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan style in mind while performing or do you have your own style?

No doubt Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a legend and I am a big fan of him. The status which he enjoyed in qawwali singing, perhaps, no other qawwal enjoyed. But as far as my style of performing is concerned, I have my own style of singing. I make many changes so that people enjoy whenever they listen to my music.

Tell us something about your national and international performances?

There are so many internationally performances. I have performed almost all over Europe, South Africa, Masqat, Singapore, and India. In India I performed in different heritage shows like Kapurthala Heritage, Amritsar Heritage. Jalandhar Heritage, Chandigarh Heritage. Besides, I have also performed qawwali at almost all the shrines of Muslim Sufi saints like at Dargah e Nizami, Hazrat Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, Ajmer Sharif, Khwaja Moin u Deen Ghareeb Nawaz, and Sabir AIIa udDin Sarkar in Kaliyar. I also perform every year at the Urs of Baba Fareed ud Din Masood Ganj Shakar in Pakpattan, at Data Ali Hajveri Sarkar in Lahore and at the darbar of Sakhi Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan Sharif. In January 2013, I performed in Norway with a big orchestra consisted of 100 musicians. It was a very successful show.

What are your upcoming projects?

I am working on different music projects like classical, neem classical, Pop, qawaIi fusion and solo. There are also some world tours in the pipeline.

The writer is a journalist based in Lahore who has sought extensive experience as sub editor in the newsroom as well as a field reporter. He has worked for different reputed newspapers in Pakistan and is presently associated with daily ‘TheNation’. He regularly reports and writes for the newspaper and its weekly magazine 'Sunday Plus'. He can be reached at

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