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13 novembre 2007

The legacy continues

Vibrant: Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali will be performing qawwali music in the Celebration Series on Nov 20 and 21.

Dewan Filharmonik Petronas presents a rare offering of Pakistan’s vibrant qawwali music on Nov 20 and 21 at 8.30pm. Under its “Celebration Series”, the performances will be presented by Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali as a tribute to the legendary Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

When he died in 1997, Nusrat Fateh left a musical vacuum into which stepped his two teenage nephews, who formed the group Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali. Despite their youth, they were determined to continue their uncle’s pioneering efforts to transcend cultural, language and religious barriers and bring to the world the devotional qawwali vocal music of the Sufi mystics of Islam.

The word qawwali simply means “utterance” and the music and style of performance it describes has been a feature of Islamic culture since the 12th century. It is religious music that uses the human voice as a vehicle for enlightenment.

Due to its strong folk and classical traditions, qawwali has evolved and become one of the great classical musical genres of world music.

The group’s third album, Day of Colours, finds them coming into their own with new-found maturity in their voices and approach. Not only does it maintain a family tradition but it also demonstrates their identity as singers and breathes fresh life into a centuries-old style which has become one of the glories of modern world music.

Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali inventively reinterprets spiritual love songs based upon classical Islamic and Sufi texts.

The two brothers who lend their name to the group, Rizwan Mujahid Ali Khan and Muazzam Mujahid Ali Khan, come from a direct line of qawwali singers that can trace its pedigree back over five centuries. Their grandfather was an uncle of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who taught him the art of qawwali vocal music.

They themselves studied under their father and were tutored by Nusrat. A decade into their career, the musicians of Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali are already proving to be masters of Sufi devotional music.

The broadening of qawwali’s appeal was central to Nusrat’s mission and it is an approach shared by the group. Its debut album, Sacrifice to Love, released in 1999, was an entirely traditional album. So was its 2001 follow-up, A Better Destiny. It has also released a remix fusion album with Temple of Sound. The group is a mainstay on Peter Gabriel’s influential Real World record label.

Rizwan and Muazzam lead five back-up singers in repeated chanting, usually to the accompaniment of rhythmic handclapping, percussion and harmonium music. The lead singer adds elaborate vocal lines, and the tempo and volume are gradually increased with each singer trying to outdo the other in terms of vocal acrobatics as the piece progresses to a heightened trance-like state.

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