Songs for the Soul

Songs for the Soul

The compilation comes with a coffee table book and has been brought out by Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Roli Books.

* Jashn-e-Khusrau: A Collection

* Roli Books

* Rs 1,995

* Rating: ***1/2

Main nizam se naina laga aayi re

Nar naari kahe so kahe

Main nizam se naina laga aayi re

Almost 700 years ago,Amir Khusrau,the favourite disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and one of the finest contemporary poets,came up with this couplet in his modest house in Ghisiyapur,now known as Nizamuddin Basti,Delhi. As strains of the same tender poetry,set as khayals and taranas to the sounds of the humble harmonium and the tabla,play from Jashn-e-Khusrau: A Collection,the beauty of traditional tarz and bandish becomes apparent.

Jashn-e-Bahar,a three-day sama-e-mehfil held last year,saw six groups of qawwals regale the audience with “khanqahi” qawwali (qawwali sung at dargahs) at the 17th century tomb,Chausath Khamba,near the Nizamuddin dargah,Delhi. Now,the renditions at the festival have been compiled in three CDs. The compilation comes with a coffee table book and has been brought out by Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Roli Books.

The tradition of khanqahi qawwali is different from the qawwalis heard at concerts and in movies. It revolves around the idea of losing oneself in love for god,and attaining spiritual bliss. The qawwals impress not so much for perfection of tune as for their stylistic capability; they are among the finest khanqahis affiliated to various dargahs in the country,and have a distinct repertoire of qawwalis.


The compilation opens with the qaul,Man kunto maula,sung by Mohammed Ahmed Warsi Nasiri and Group. The tunes have been passed down generations through oral renditions,and follow the traditional style of takrar,gireh and tarana. This is followed by Ba khubi humchu maih-e tabanda bashi,by Meraj Ahmed Nizami and Group. Eighty-three-year-old Nizami,a disciple of Qawwal Bachche,a group trained by Khusrau himself,sings in a quivery voice,going off track at places. But the effort,supported by his sons,has to be commended for the soul that this qawwali offers. The fatigue in the voice is drowned by the emotional rendition. Kahe ko byahi bidesh,written by Khusrau in Brij bhasha and Hindavi,performed by the same group,is an equally beautiful track.

The ghazal-like rendition by Ghaus Mohammad Nasir Niazi of Pakistan is catchy and pleasing to the ear. The clapping,a fixture in qawwali,is toned down; there is sweetness,more taans and alaaps,heightening the romance of poetry. Tori surat ke balihari by Ghulam Hussain Niazi,the official qawwal of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya dargah,is commendable for clarity,high-pitched tones and pleasant lyrics.