Transcending boundaries

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Parramasala 2014 brought together Sufi sounds from across the world, writes PRIYANKYA TATER

At a multicultural performing arts festival, surely you can expect some wonderful surprises. How about a Caucasian qawwal?

When Canada-born Tahir Hussain Faridi took to the stage at Parramasala recently, he simply swept us off our feet.

Dressed in a black and gold kurta and wielding the harmonium, Faridi led his troupe, the Sydney Qawwals, through an impeccable Sufi experience called Chants of Love.

Made up of Pakistani, Indian and Afghani singers, the Sydney Qawwals were proof that music does indeed transcend boundaries.

Together, they were all able to transmit to the audience more than sufficiently, the devotional frenzy that this particular style of singing evokes.

The show kicked off with the very famous and much loved Allah Hu (God is truth). Tahir’s pronunciations were spot on, his ragas and notes flawless and when performing, his soul seemed to be completely immersed in the mysticism and depth of Sufism. And to match tunes with his rhythm was the brilliant Yama Sarshar on the tabla along with the chorus comprising of Mankul Sain, Ram Laal and Noman Ahmad.

The claps got louder and the excitement in the crowd seemed to be growing with every qawwaliKali Kamaliya, Mankunto Ali Maula, Laaj Meri Pat and others.

And then came the qawwali dhamaal moment as promised by radio presenter Zahid Minhas at the start of the show.

What better way to call it a night than Dam-a-Dam Mast Kalandar. Oh boy! The crowd was on a high as the cheers and claps began to crescendo as the singers worked themselves up into a passion. The theatre was booming with the sheer energy of it all.

Though all good things come to an end, sometimes we may just get lucky with a bit of a grace period! The audience’s calls for an encore simply wouldn’t let it end. And Tahir and his qawwals honoured our request by singing part of the Mast Kalandar song yet again!

Tahir, originally from Nova Scotia in Canada, was initiated into classical Indian music at the age of 15, and has lived in India for many years, ‘dissolving’ himself as he claims, in the music and mysticism of the sub-continent.

Close your eyes as he performs, and you wouldn’t ever know that it is a Canadian singing such soulful qawwalis.

The Chants of Love show organised by WAACI (We Australians Are Creative Incorporated) was a free event at Parramasala, the brain child of well-known community networker, entrepreneur, speaker, music composer and poet Abbas Raza Alvi. Given that seating capacity was only 200, many people had to be turned away.

Now I have attended many a musical performance and live shows, enjoyed most, barely tolerated some and boycotted a handful. But I have to confess this was my very first qawwali show and I simply couldn’t get enough of it.

As Fasihuddin Khan said at the close of the event,Humney khushboo ke bundh khol diye, hawaa ab teri zimmedaari hai“.

Well, I was hooked, for sure!


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