Saturday, November 29, 2014

Riyaaz Qawwali

A few weeks ago, a few days after I returned to New York, I took the train to Columbia University and went to a student event organized by a Pakistani students' association. It was a qawwali concert featuring the group Riyaaz Qawwali, a young group from Texas.

They were lively and great and the packed audience was really into it. Before we knew it, hands were waving money around their heads and about halfway in people started dancing, and by the end, it was full-on. It was my first time at a qawwali concert. This isn't something I would've enjoyed a few years ago but as I've gone on in my journey in Islam I've really come to appreciate Sufi music and artforms. I appreciate the intention to reach closer to God through music. Some would call it innovation or bid'ah, but I believe there's more than one way to get closer to God.

Riyaaz Qawwali has members who are descended from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India, and they also do Hindu and Sikh songs too, so I'm guessing they are of various religions, which doesn't make them a typical qawwali group to my limited knowledge. In any case they put on a great show and the crowd loved it. A couple of Pakistani friends later told me that usually, uncles start dancing right away, while this crowd took some time to warm up, and also that the group mainly focused on choruses and didn't sing more of the poetic lyrics. Still, they were pretty good for a young group whose members grew up in America. I'd love to go to India or Pakistan and hear qawwali live. I've been told though that those spaces are usually segregated which annoys me - but that was another good thing about the Columbia University concert, for men and women were enjoying the music together.

I bought their CD at the gig and haven't gotten a chance to listen to it yet, but here's a couple of youtube videos that you can enjoy in the meantime.