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Interview And Essay On Qawwali's

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Autor:   •  October 23, 2010  •  2,868 Words (12 Pages)  •  3,526 Views

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In modern society, diversity among people is an admired quality, which many feel strengthens all of humanity. Diversity in today's world is a result of many cultures coming together to share and celebrate their various backgrounds. Music is one of the largest facets of culture worldwide, and therefore is an essential part of each individual person's culture no matter where they are from. For the purpose of this assignment, I chose to interview a very close family friend, Mr. Asif Rawjani. In order to understand the role that music has played in his life so far, it is important to first attempt to grasp an understanding of his cultural background as well as his life experiences with music. This includes both his musical memories and the role that said music played in his life. It is also very important to remember to put these experiences into a broader cultural and historical context when attempting to understand the reason that Mr. Rawjani listens to a particular type of music, namely a type of ghazal called the qawwali, and how this relates back to his culture as well as to his life experiences. Qawwali's are a very small portion of the entire worlds music scene and are regarded at most times to be religious music, for this reason, many people do not know specific details about this type of music and what it symbolizes. While researching for this assignment, I often found that documents failed to include proper examples of qawwali performers and this proved rather exhausting when searching for examples of music, as it is habitually easier to write about an event or an occurrence, which one has experienced oneself. Fortunately, Mr. Rawjani was very forthcoming with detailed information regarding his experiences with music, as well as providing comprehensive answers to various questions pertaining to his background, in addition to providing me with some examples of qawwalis, which made writing this essay quite an enjoyable and enlightening experience.

Mr. Rawjani can trace his lineage back to the town of Jamnagar, in the state of Gujarat, India and was born in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in East Africa and moved to Canada at the age of twenty-three, he has also traveled the world extensively. He has lived in different parts of the Middle East for seven out of the last ten years with his family and has lived in Canada for the other three years. Throughout this time, Mr. Rawjani insists that he has exposed himself to an assortment of world music, but still feels a strong affinity to qawwali's. Mr. Rawjani comes from a fairly modern Muslim family and he insists that this, combined with his geographical, historical and cultural background has played a large role in shaping his musical tastes. He was born in nineteen fifty-seven, a mere ten years after India gained its independence from Britain, at that time, his father and grandfather immigrated to East Africa in pursuit of a better life as well as to escape the turmoil and bloodshed in India at the time. These atrocities were a consequence of the partition between India and Pakistan, which resulted in a grave amount of religious hatred and intolerance {Gooptu}. Mr. Rawjani grew up in a world, which was just recovering from the turmoil of the partition between India and Pakistan, and his family, community, culture and world at large were all affected by it. In order to accurately comprehend the intensity of the partition and all the harm that it caused, and also to understand the reason for many peoples anger and hatred it is imperative that one look at the partition through the experiences of someone who understands the finer points of it and is able to articulate them in a scholarly format. As I did not know many details about the Indo-Pakistani partition, and since it seemed to affect every aspect of Mr. Rawjani's life and therefore choices in music, I asked him many questions, as I simply did not understand the gravity of the situation. He directed my attention to the fact that over one million people were killed during the riots surrounding the partition and up to fourteen million people were made to re-locate because of the rules stipulated by the British. {Gooptu} It was because of all this upheaval that people in India and Pakistan became steadfast and strict in the way in which they followed their faith and by extension their individual cultures. According to Mr. Rawjani, in times of crisis it is quite customary for one to grasp and hold steadfast to any concrete form of culture in order to feel a sense of belonging, this can result in communities of people becoming very exclusive toward other cultures in order to ensure that their progeny follows the same path as their parents with similar morals and values.

Although many people may not consider music to be a concrete substance of culture to adhere to, Mr. Rawjani explained to me very specifically the way in which if enough importance is placed on it, then music too can become a concrete vehicle that parents can use to pass cultural and religious values on to their children with. Whilst he was growing up, Mr. Rawjani attended many mahfils, assemblies of Islamic mysticism {Qureshi 459}, which are performances of Islamic mystical music at which qawwali's were usually performed. He attended these events with many people; however, the gathering was usually very intimate, with people sitting in clusters with their families or with their friends. Qawwali's are not created for a target audience, but are created because the singers have such a passion to sing and therefore pray at the same time. As it is a form of prayer and entertainment at the same time, mahfils were attended by people of all ages. As qawwali's stem from the South-Asian Islamic tradition of music, they are a type of song with musical accompaniment, {Qureshi, 459} and are usually written in the language of Urdu, now the national language of Pakistan. Urdu is a Persianized variation of Hindi, the primary language of much of India. Urdu established itself as the language of Muslim religion and culture in the Indian sub-continent {Qureshi 458} and for that reason most qawwali's are written in the Urdu language as opposed to in Hindi.

In order to fully appreciate the musical tastes of Mr. Rawjani, it is imperative to first examine the historical and cultural background of qawwali's and understand their cultural significance. However, since qawwali's are an essentially a form of religious song, it is crucial to understand the religion that gave birth to the music before trying to understand the music itself. Qawwali's originated in western Afghanistan, from the Sufi's in the small village of Chist, they are now referred to as the Chisti sect {Neubauer} and their form of music eventually spread to the northwest part of the Indian sub-continent before it spread all over the world in the nineteen eighties. They are usually


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