Pakistan’s attempts to secularise qawwali are unnecessary – it has always been pluralistic

By Hammad Khan in Scroll. in

[Kabir’s note: A nice change from geopolitics and caste]

One of the characteristics of the modern weltanschauung (worldview) is to identify religion as distinct from culture.

Islam, and Islam in Pakistan, doesn’t escape this bifurcation either. One popular example is qawwali.

The recent secularisation of qawwali – the shift away from Sufi dargahs to concert halls and recording labels – has led to a re-imagining of qawwali as expressive of the cultural traditions of Pakistan and (North) India, related only marginally and incidentally to the religion in whose cradle it developed.

Such a secular understanding of qawwali is anachronistic to the pre-modern progenitors of the art form.

The Chishti order, the most prominent Sufi brotherhood in Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, has long celebrated the normativity of qawwali as an expression of divine love. Annemarie Schimmel has noted the phenomenon in the Mystical Dimensions of Islam as “the most widely known expression of mystical life in Islam.” American author Leonard Lewisohn, in his article “The Sacred Music of Islam: Sama in the Persian Sufi Tradition”, points out that qawwali is stressed upon by some South Asian Sufis not only as legally permissible (halal), but as a required religious practice (wajib).

Inherent religious pluralism

Qawwali also has a long history of engaging with multiple religious traditions. The religious landscape of North India and Pakistan provides a literary context of diverse religious motifs, metaphors and symbols.

Such a pluralistic approach is evident in a representative qawwali, Kanhayya (Krishna), composed by Nawab Sadiq Jung Bahadur Hilm and performed by Abu Muhammad and Fareed Ayaz. The qawwal sings of his love for Krishna and relates a heart-wrenching account of the afflictions he endures through separation with his beloved.

Kahuun kyaa tere bhuulne ke main vaarii
Kanhayya yaad hai kuch bhii hamaarii

What can I say, even for your neglect
I could give my life.
Do you remember me a little,
O’ my tormenting Kanhayya!

Radha-Krishna as the archetype of spiritual love is based on the 12th century lyrical epic, Gita Govinda (Love Song of the Dark Lord), composed by the saint-poet Shri Jayadeva of Bengal, and is considered a religious work in the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism.

You can read the rest of the article at the link above.

Intellectual Dark Web

I would define the “intellectual dark web” as the confluence and convergence of leaders from classical European enlightenment, hard sciences, technology (including neuroscience, bio-engineering, genetics, artificial intelligence), and east philosophy streams. Among the intellectual dark web’s many members are Dr. Richard Haier, Jordan Peterson, Jonathan Haidt, Ben Shapiro, Weinstein brothers, Sam Harris, Glenn Loury, John McWhorter, Yuval Noah Harari, Thomas Friedman, Maajid Nawaz, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku , Dr. VS Ramachandran, Steven Pinker, Armin Navabi, Ali Rizvi, Farhan Qureshi, Peter Beinart, Gad Saad, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan, Russell Brand.  If Steve Jobs were still alive, I would include him among them. They defy easy labels and are high on openness. I hesitate to label others without their permission, but our very own Razib Khan strikes me as a potential leader of the “intellectual dark web”; although I will withdraw this nomination if he wishes. 😉

Some see the intellectual dark web as the primary global resistance to post modernism. I don’t agree. Rather I see them as ideation and intuition leaders thinking different:

Continue reading “Intellectual Dark Web”

A must watch

For those who like world/ethnic music + Rock. This is the entire movie, just saw clips 10 years ago. Something for all. WWF (wrestling), Child Birth, Travelogue, ethnic and rock music. My favorite clip is at 00:42, the Bauls.  Whats with the Afro of the Baul singer.  The young Baul kid is Paban Das Baul.  He is quite well known in Europe. (YouTube search here).   Maki Kazumi in the Baul Clip I posted a few days back is still a Baul performing/evangelizing, monar manush. (Dont understand the words except manush which I assume means man).

I think, just intellectualizing by reading books about the world does not cut it.  Travel (wish I could do more) and into the hinterlands.  I have crossed the US three times with a tent, in an old Chevy Celebrity (had 160K miles when a Professor (Akira Akubo) gave it to me.   Montreal/Toronto to Florida and New Orleans at least 3 times. The Bronx before it became gentrified.  Camden/Baltimore.
Plus Myanmar backpacking in 2005 when the county just opened.

Vagabunden Karawane: A musical trip through Iran, Afghanistan and India in 1979 (1 hr 28 mins)

Bi Kidude, Sri Lankan Baila and Traditional Drums

Cross posted from blog.

Recently saw a music video by Bi Kidude (Little Granny) from Zanzibar.  I was struck by the similarities to Sri Lankan Kaffiringha or Manja music and old traditional music as in Panama Vannam and Yak (as in Yakkha) Thovil.  (Panama is pronounced Paanaama, its a small village on the SE coast at the edges of the jungle).

Bi Kidude (Little Granny)
Fatma Baraka Khamis was Taarab singer from Zanzibar who was born around 1910. Bi Kidude won several awards including a WOMEX
Award for her role in the culture of the Zanzibar Island.  The iconic artist sadly passed away on April 17th, 2013.   She very well might have been a century old. (see more here and video documentaryAs old as my tongue – The Myth and Life of Bi Kidude” by director Andy Jones). In Bi Kidude’s words, I smoke, drink and sing.  Not bad for a life to a hundred years.

So here is one music video by Bi Kidude. A few other links, DancingTraditional Drums, and her Voice range (Alminadura).

Manja Music of Sri Lanka
Its the music of the Kaffirs (not a derogatory word in Sri Lanka). They were brought mainly by the Portuguese from Angola and Mozambique. The Tabbowa/Sirambiadi community in the west coast is a mix of African descendants and Sinhalese.  Their music is now very much part of the Sri Lankan tradition.  Below the group Ceylon African Manja performing in their village.  This is youtube clip of the same group in a more formal setting.

Portuguese Burgers (Creoles) of Batticoloa (East Coast)
The Portuguese Burgers too sing and dance Kaffiringha music.  Its is unknown if they have African roots.

Sri Lankan Traditional Music
A gravel voice and rhythms (as against melody) define traditional music. Immediate below women playing the rabane,  a instrument played by women at village events, specially Sinhalese New Year.  This particular video is from a five star hotel !!.

Second below the traditional Gajaba Wannama (dance of the King’s Tuske) with a modern dance ensemble.  More Wannamas here.

Unheard of a couple of decades back, upper middle class girls/women playing the drums, or for that matter a traditional instruments.  Now we have and all girl/women traditional drumming (watch it is good, their website http://www.thuryaa.lk/). The times are a changing.

note: Traditionally (at least the last century) dance for festivals, processions (perahera, eg. the Kandy Perahera) was done almost exclusively by men.  One rarely saw women dancing, unless it was associated with Hindu Kavadi also part of the Perahera procession

Also see
http://sbarrkum.blogspot.com/2013/03/music-papare-video-angola-or-brasil.html
http://sbarrkum.blogspot.com/2011/01/galle-heliwela-exorcism-and-yak-natum.html

Thanks Mohamed Rizwan for linking the Bi Kidude video, Anton James for identifying Bi Kidude.