Rizwan and Muazzam Ali Khan, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s nephews from Pakistan are down in Mumbai for a special qawwali concert. The duo’s performance on Sunday will be a tribute to honour the memory of their uncle.
“While we will be singing some of the compositions made immortal by our late uncle, we will also sing some unheard ones. We also use a lot of western orchestration with our singing to make it a bit more appealing to the youth,” Muazzam told DNA.
The Rizwan-Muazzam qawwali troupe first showcased their talents at the WOMAD Festival (1998) in Reading, UK, to much critical acclaim. They have also been a part of some memorable episodes of the music television series Coke Studio Pakistan.
“We have had so much love and feedback from Indian audiences who have followed our work on Coke studio in Pakistan that it makes this concert tour of India that much more exciting,” Muazzam said.
The troupe consists of two lead singers (Rizwan and Muazzam), five secondary singers leading the choral response and vigorous hand claps, two harmonium players and a tabla player.
“Even for recordings, we choose to sing sitting on the ground rather than on seats. We believe this brings us closer to God,” said Muazzam.
“The spiritual core of the performance is everything. It can make or mar the whole concert. No amount of flashy costumes, great lighting and western beats can make up for the lack of spirituality in the artistes,” he added. Coming from a five-century-old lineage of qawwals, they definitely know what they are talking about.
“The original Qawwali repertoire of Persian, Punjabi, and the dialect Brajbhasha in recent times has given way to Urdu and Arabic. Romantic love is however still used as a metaphor for spiritual adoration and mystical enlightenment, drawing upon a rich vein of poetic imagery,” explains Rizwan, who is known for his sudden bursts of energy mid-rendition.
In fact, the vigour and energy with which they musically challenge each other led one commentator to half-jokingly call them “the Qawwali Clash.”