Carnegie Hall Presents An Evening of Traditional Sufi Music with Asif Ali Khan Qawwal Tonight
Tonight, March 22 at 8:30 p.m., Asif Ali Khan, a musician widely regarded as the reigning prince of the Sufi music known asqawwali, performs in Zankel Hall with his eight-member qawwali ensemble. Khan is from a family of renowned Sufi musicians and was the student of the celebrated late qawwali master Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. (Asif Ali Khan was once hailed by the maestro as one of his best students.) An icon in his native Pakistan, Asif Ali Khan is one of qawwali music's finest living exponents, and is becoming a powerful figure on the international stage as the traditional music grows in popularity. While praised for his inventiveness, Khan remains faithful to the sublime traditions of this devotional music with songs that often build from a meditative and trance-like state to a thrilling and energetic spectacle. Of his craft, Khan says, "we aren't singing as much as listening to God's instructions with our souls."
Dating back over 800 years, qawwali is an energetic musical performance of Sufi Muslim poetry that aims to lead listeners to a state of religious ecstasy-to a spiritual union with God. The music was popularized outside of South Asia in the late 20th century. Deriving its name from the Arabic wordqaul, meaning "to speak," qawwali is a musical vehicle by which a group of male musicians-calledqawwals-delivers inspirational Sufi messages to a traditionally male assembly of devotees. A typicalqawwali ensemble consists of one or two lead vocalists; a chorus of hand-clapping qawwals who sing the refrains; a harmonium player, who supports the fixed melody as well as the melodic improvisations of the soloist; and a percussionist, who articulates the metric framework using a dholak (double-headed drum) or a tabla.
Asif Ali Khan, a favorite student of the late, great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, expands on the legacy of his teacher with his brilliant inventiveness. Since Nusrat's death in 1997, Khan has participated in tribute concerts and recordings dedicated to the memory of his teacher, while developing a style and presence of his own. Remaining faithful to the 800-year-old traditions of devotional Sufi music, Khan has also become hugely popular on the international stage. His own style of qawwali-based on the Punjabi Ang form, similar to the style of his late master-boasts full-throated vocals and energetic rhythms, switching from meditative and trance-like to thrilling, ecstatic crescendos. To hear his voice soar above the call-and-response choruses, rhythmic hand claps, percussion, and harmonium of his accompanying eight-member ensemble is truly inspiring, even to those outside the Sufi faith. With raw passion and emotional intensity, Asif Ali Khan's magnificent voice recalls the inspiring words of his late mentor Nusrat: "In this atomic age, when everybody is after material gains, music can give spiritual calmness and peace of mind."
ASIF ALI KHAN QAWWAL features Asif Ali Khan Qawwal (Lead Voice), Raza Hussein (Harmonium and Vocals), Sarfraz Hussein (Harmonium and Vocals), Ali Khawar (Tabla), Imtiaz Hussein Shibli (Chorus), Waheed Mumtaz Hussein (Chorus), Shah Nawaz Hussein (Chorus), Manzoor Hussain Shibli (Chorus), and Umar Draz Hussein (Chorus).
Single tickets, priced at $38 and $44, are available at the Carnegie Hall Box Office, 154 West 57th Street, or can be charged to major credit cards by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800, or online by visiting carnegiehall.org.