Qawwals and whirling dervishes join to celebrate peace, unity, love and pluralism

Qawwals Fareed Ayaz (center) and Abu Muhammad (left) performing at Warner Theater in Washington, DC,
Qawwals Fareed Ayaz (center) and Abu Muhammad (left) performing at Warner Theater in Washington, DC, on July 7, 2018. Photo credit: Hana Manadath

Qawwali maestros Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad create a mystical ambiance at their first-ever performance at Washington’s Warner Theater.

By Surekha Vijh

They say music and dance has only one language, that is the language of the heart. That’s what it felt like in the heart of the capital city, when nearly a dozen qawwali singers from South Asia and two whirling dervishes from Turkey created a beautiful atmosphere accentuating the universal language of love and spirituality on July 7.

In their first ever public performance in Washington, DC, prominent Pakistani qawwal brothers Freed Ayaz and Abu Muhammed created a mystical ambiance and captivated the audience.

The concert was organized by the Rumi Circle of Greater Washington, DC, and promoted by The American Bazaar.

Introducing the qawwal and the dervishes, Dr Azra Raza, a professor of medicine at Columbia University in New York, spoke on the essence of Sufism — a mystical branch of Islam that emphasizes universal love, peace, acceptance — and its effect on the world and on the theme of the evening, peace, unity, love and pluralism.

RELATED: Renowned Qawwals Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad to perform at Warner Theater in Washington on July 7  (June 20, 2018)

Dr. Raza said this was an effort to bring together artists and oneness of humanity under one roof irrespective of their language, religion and race. She said brothers Ayaz and Muhammad were among the best practitioners of Qawwali, a 700-year-old musical tradition of South Asia, based on the mystical Sufi poetry.

Ayaz and Muhammad, who belong to the Delhi gharana (school of music), were trained under their father Ustad Munshi Raziuddin Ahmed Khan, who was a prominent musician in his time. The two have performed in iconic venues in dozens of countries for more than three decades.

A whirling dervish performing at Warner Theater in Washington, DC
A whirling dervish performing at Warner Theater in Washington, DC, on July 7, 2018. Photo credit: Hana Manadath

Various spiritual paths and mystical union with the divine, originated in as early as in the 15th century by the followers of Jalal ud-din Muhammad Rumi, a 13th century poet and Sufi mystic. The evening was to explore the spirituality in a universal language, she added.

The concert began with with the memorable qawwali Allh Hu, followed by Qaseeda by an Egyptian poet, and then sang Aaj Rung, written by famous poet Amir Khusro. The other songs they performed included Lal Meri Pat Rakhyo Bala Jhoolai Lalan, Man Kunto Maula, Aiy Ree Sakhi Moray Piya Ghar Aa’aiy, and Chaap Tilak.

“We are delighted and honored to be performing at the historic Warner Theater,” said Ayaz. “We hope to spread the message of peace, unity, love and pluralism through our music.”

A dance, called sema, was presented in a very rhythmic circular motion by the whirling dervishes. The dance was performed to express emotion and achieve the wisdom and love of god. Founded by Rumi, the dance was originated in Turkey as a unifying form of the Islamic sect of Sufism.

The concert was a joint effort by the South Asian and Middle Eastern musical talents in the region, the organizers said.

Admission to the concert was free, so that the maximum number of people could attend and the hall was packed to the capacity.

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