Saturday, February 27, 2010

City Music - The Real Sufi Stars

The Delhi walla's pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls - Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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Maula Mere Maula

The qawwals of Hazrat Nizamuddin.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

It is amusing to see Delhiwallas scramble for pricey tickets each time a 'big' sufi music star such as Abida Parveen or Kailash Kher lands in the town for a concert. People can always go each Thursday evening (6.30 pm) to the 14th century shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in south Delhi. It's spine-tingling music there and it's free.

As the dargah’s in-house qawwals break into sufi love songs, the mood goes electric. As exciting as ticketed concerts, you sit right alongside the singers and watch their eyes popping out, hands slicing the air, and faces dissolving into momentary madness. These qawwals — almost two dozens are present at any given Thursday performance — are the superstars of Delhi’s sufi music scene. They not only sing in the shrine but are also invited to perform in upper-crust Delhi’s evening soirees. They are in high demand overseas, too. Europe and North America are their regular destinations.

Divided into five groups or ‘parties’, the qawwals live in their own little world. Each group is comprised of a single family. Some family lines are ancient. Two houses, with similar names, stand out — Nizami Khusro Bandhus and Nizami Bandhus. They are related by marriage and both groups claim to have been singing in the dargah for 750 years. Here the parallels end.

The Khusro Nizami Bandhus have an impressive pedigree. Its patriarch, Ustad Meraj Ahmed, is a direct descendant of Ustad Tanras Khan, who was a royal singer at the court of Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. The family is known for singing qawwalis in its pure form. Even his rivals acknowledge Ustad Meraj’s grip over the Persian language.

In contrast, Nizami Bandhus are considered to be as good with devotional qawwalis as they are with Bollywood chartbusters. “Khusro Bandhus are fit for a mehfil while Nizami Bandhus are good for collecting crowds,” says Altamash Nizami, a dargah khadim. Both families also sing Hindu bhajans. “We also perform at cocktail parties,” says Shadab Faridi Nizami of the Nizami Bandhus.

Occasionally, tensions arise when families compete for contracts to perform at private functions — where the money is. The concerts are too few and the groups too many; inevitably, the clans clash. However, on Jummeraat (Thursday evenings), all the parties sing together. There is no squabbling for the primary position. Money offered as nazrana is shared equally. And all look like one happy family.

Delhi's two big qawwals

Nizami Khusro Bandhus

Maula Mere Maula

Anyone interested in the ‘pure’ form of qawwali cannot afford to overlook this family. Headed by Ustad Meraj Ahmed, it claims to have descended from one of the 12 original qawwal bachhe. They were the first people trained in Sufiana music by Amir Khusrau, the 14th-century Persian poet considered to be the father of qawwalis. While Ustad Meraj has curtailed his performances due to old age, his five sons are carrying on the legacy. Catch them on Friday evenings at Sufi Inayat Ali’s dargah in Nizamuddin Basti.
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Nizami Bandhus

The Sound of Qawwali

This 'party' rocks. Chand Nizami and his two nephews can always be depended upon to deliver electric performances. They draw as much cheer with filmi chartbusters as they do with qawwalis. The family is related to Nizami Khuso Bandhus. Ustad Meraj's late wife was sister to Chand Nizami. He became the head after his elder brother Gulam Farid died in August, 2007.
Contact 9810293913

Music from the dargah

Maula Mere Maula

Music from the dargah

Maula Mere Maula

Music from the dargah

Maula Mere Maula

Music from the dargah

Maula Mere Maula

Music from the dargah

Maula Mere Maula

Music from the dargah

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Music from the dargah

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Music from the dargah

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Just perfect

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3 comments:

Chandni said...

Thanks for this post! I have (incredibly) not been to Nizamuddin in spite of living in Delhi for 7 years now. Will definitely go on a Thursday evening. :)

Anonymous said...

LUV THAT MUSIC SOOO MUCH THANKS TO U MAYANK I GO THERE EVERY SATURDAY to ask the almighty for his blessings...Hope the HAZRAT keeps me in his prayer to the almighty...ur a true the soofi mayank !!may the almighty bless u.

JJH said...

Thank you for sharing. I am an avid reader of your blog. Can you please (if you know) explain the string instruments being played. I can tell they are three instruments of the same family in different voices (sizes). I am reminded of the Turkish saz which is also a stringed lute that comes in different sizes.