‘Gone are the days when qawwali was sung for divinity’

If Pakistan’s qawwali tradition was spearheaded by the throaty vocals of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan,for the latter half of the 20th century,there was his lesser-known but equally talented counterpart in India named Jafar Husain Badayuni.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published:March 6, 2013 2:23 am

If Pakistan’s qawwali tradition was spearheaded by the throaty vocals of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan,for the latter half of the 20th century,there was his lesser-known but equally talented counterpart in India named Jafar Husain Badayuni. Jafar’s melodious renditions of Amir Khusrau and Baba Bulleshah’s poetry,improvisations in various ragas and interjections of sargams in the genre were very popular. On Saturday,45-year-old Wajahat Husain Badayuni,grand nephew of the illustrious qawwal Jafar,performed at the end of Sufi Kathak Foundation’s symposium “Understanding Qawwali” and brought alive the rose garden in Delhi with his dazzling vocals

while singing Man Kunto and Chhap Tilak. He spoke about his lineage and the status of qawwali in today’s day and time.

Your maternal grandfather

Ustad Jafar Husain Khan took

you under his wing at an early stage. Tell us something about

the way qawwali was taught back then and how it enjoyed a

grand stature.

The culture of singing qawwali had come from the khanqahs. My grandfather taught the famous classical singer Ustad Rashid Khan. So classical music was extremely important in the family. I heard him perform in Badayun and knew I had to do this. I began living with him and accompanying him. He would meticulously tell me about the way a sher is read,how to interact with the audience,stress on certain words and blend ragas. Back then qawwali was sung to attain divine ecstasy,so the audience treated it like that. The roots of classical music lie in qawwali,so it enjoyed a lot of patronage and was loved by people

Your melodious style is quite similar to Jafar sahab…

I can never sing like him. But I copy him. And I am honest about that. I have always tried to sing like him,to sound like him,bring in the mithas (sweetness) the way he did.

According to you,where does qawwali stand today?

Gone are the days when qawwali was sung for divinity. With the genre entering Bollywood and reality shows,its value has come down. The cultural societies are putting in a lot of work but the way it was sung at shrines,the spirituality of it,is not something that we see these days.

What needs to be done to bring it to the same level?

I want people to understand that qawwali is not folk. Also,it is a serious genre in itself and requires intensive training. Bollywood needs to be wiser and not just pick up popular qawwalis and destroy them for commercial purposes.

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