In an effort to provide aid to the victims of the recent earthquake in South Asia, which left over 30 million people homeless, a coalition of Cornell clubs held a concert featuring Qawwali music, a devotional music of Islamic mystics, known as Sufi. The event marked the first time a Qawwali band performed on the campus.
The show featured Farid Ayaz Qawwal and Brothers. The group, consisting of four brothers and their four sons, combine popular traditional Qawwali with ancient traditional, classical and Sufi Qawwali.
Unlike previous South Asian performers at Cornell, who have been for the most part Indian, the band represented a Pakistani group.
Although Qawwali is one of the oldest forms of music in Pakistan, dating back over 700 years, the style has recently become better known in Western countries through the work of the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, who recorded a duet with Pearl Jam for the movie Dead Man Walking.
Natasha Renee Qamar ’06, president of the Pakistani Student Association of Cornell, expressed her desire to spread the musical style even further.
“If nothing else, the event will be a chance to experience Qawwali at Cornell,” Qamar said. “I do hope that it is an event which educates the audience about a more religious-linked musical form.”
While Qawwali is mostly noted as a musical form that aims to achieve proximity with God and recognized for its spirituality, Farid Ayaz Qawwal and Brothers also expressed that the ensemble speaks from the heart about the love for humankind.
Afshan Khoja grad who is originally from Pakistan, has frequently seen Qawalli groups on television in Pakistan but never before had the opportunity to see a band live.
“I’ve always wanted to see Qawwali. Even though you hear it all the time in Pakistan, I wanted to experience it and the spirituality of the event,” Khoja said.
Not only was Khoja pleased about the prospects about experiencing Qawwali music live, but she was also impressed that the band was playing at Cornell.
“I’m amazed, truly amazed,” Khoja said. “I think that the PSA and all should be commended for their efforts.”
Zulara Wahla ’08, a member of PSA, explained that the event was a way to both donate to the earthquake relief fund and share the cultural experience.
“It’s something that never came to Cornell before and is not prevalent on campus,” Wahla said.
The South Asia Program learned about the group after attending an event at Stanford University earlier this month and then asked the PSA to help organize and execute the event.
Archived article by Blair Robin
Sun Staff Writer