¨The first aspect of Qawwali is the praise of God and the second is love and peace. The younger people nowadays are still listening and they still sense it's something special. It feels like a miracle to them.”- Rizwan and Muazzam Ali Khan
There are intense performers and then there's Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali. Fronted by the two Mujahid Ali Khan brothers Rizwan and Muazzam - nephews of the late qawwali superstar Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - the group is the torchbearer of a tradition that extends over 700 years. Qawwali is an Arabic word that means "utterance" and it is the devotional music of the Sufis of Pakistan and India, a genre extolling mystical love and worship of God.
Performing songs that use hypnotic vocal repetition to induce a state of ecstasy, the brothers draw on soaring voices backed by a gharana, an ensemble of harmonium and tabla accompanied by handclaps. Intoxicating and entrancing, “Rizwan and Muazzam’s voices climb and swoop as if riding air currents; the harmonium seeks a similar undulating flight path while fingertips flutter like hummingbirds across the tablas” (BBC). Their propulsive swirl of sound is an invitation to a higher ground that even the most ardent non-believer would have trouble resisting.
Rizwan and Muazzam haven't let their uncle's legacy swamp them. They're their own men, as shown by their willingness to build on Nusrat's expansionist plans for qawwali: Exhibit ‘A’ being the brilliant "People's Colony No 1" album (2001, Real World) made with dubwise duo Temple Of Sound. It’s a fascinating window on 21st century qawwali – the organic meets technology, moving all the traditions forward.