Let me start by saying that I have finally found a video that I would have liked to post for the Urs of Shahbaz Laal Qalandar early last month. I have celebrated that event a few times on this blog, but I could find little this year to add to what I had done before. I wanted to find something contemporary this time, but the only material that I saw about this year’s festival in the news was news about all the people who died from the heat. But now I have found something actually uplifting, and it’s a performance headed by Tahir Faridi Qawwal (on vocals, etc.) and Aminah Chhshti (on tabla), in a film that they are helping to put together.
I thought I had posted about these two musicians before, years ago, but I can’t find the post. (Maybe my search function isn’t working too well.) Anyway, I discovered Tahir Faridi Qawwal and his group(s) in 2010, when I stumbled upon this cover:
But that isn’t the only song he did that we might associate with a favorite film. Here he sings in a slightly different Sufi-playing outfit in Australia. This performance is very good also, and I appreciate the explanation of the song that’s given at the beginning by the female singer, Bhairavi Devi.
Tahir is a remarkable person, and you can see how/why in a description from his site. But you can also see here that Aminah Chishti is even more remarkable.
In 2001 Tahir Qawwal & Aminah Chishti first formed Fanna-Fi-Allah, a traditionally arranged qawwali ensemble devoted to spreading the sufi message in the West. Since this ensemble was created, Fanna-Fi-Allah has performed at hundreds of festivals, gatherings and concerts worldwide. Sharing the passionate power of qawwali in countries like the USA, India, Indonesia, Egypt and, of course, Pakistan.
Fanna-Fi-Allah was certainly the first ‘mostly’ white-skinned qawwali ensemble to sing at such highly regarded sufi centers. Also, Aminah Chishti was the first female qawwali tabla player even given permission to perform at such places where qawwali is traditionally only performed by males.
(I have to say, though, I am not sure I agree with using the term “mostly white-skinned.” And why is “mostly” singled out with single quotes? I did some other minor editing here, but I decided to leave that, because there must be some reason for it, right? Anyway, I certainly don’t want people to think, after reading this post and the previous one, that I have any special interest in promoting “white-skinned” people who become obsessed with Indian and Pakistani music, films, and dance. Why would I be motivated in such a way? :-) )
Here is a very nice video that talks about how remarkable Aminah Chishti is. It also contains some very good words by Aminah, herself, about the nature and effects of qawwali.
Much of Aminah’s tale (and history) can also be found in an article with the snappy title, “Sheer Force of Qawwali Forces Jessica to Convert.”
And here’s a video of her tabla playing on full, glorious display, in a duet that she did with Israr Hussain for PTV:
Aminah and Tahir are also both in great form in this video by all of Fanna-Fi-Allah Qawwali, doing another song that should be familiar to most people who visit this blog:
By the way, that video was shot at the Nevada State Theatre, in Aminah’s home state of California. And I am happy to see that the group is presently doing another one of their North American tours. Looking at their events calendar, I see that they are scheduled to play Yonkers, NY on September 3. I hope that it is an event that I can go to, because I presently live at the northern end of New York City, within walking distance of Yonkers. If for some reason that venue doesn’t work out, I hope to catch them somewhere else soon, and I heartily recommend that other people out there try to find them also.
P.S. Looking at their Web site a couple of days later, I see that they will be playing at the Yonkers Riverfront Library, an easy train or bus trip for me. So, I will probably be seeing some live qawwali (finally) before the summer is through!