“Soaring…vibrant…music fueled by its own jubilation” – NY Times
PUSAKA, as part of DiverseCity 2015: Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival, is proud to present for the first time ever in Malaysia, the leaders of one of Pakistan’s most popular ensembles, the Mehr and Sher Ali brothers.
19th September, 2015
More details coming soon…
Mehr and Sher Ali were born in the Pakistani border town of Kasur in the early 1950s and received their early training in classical music from their father, who was a court classical singer at the small Sikh principality of Patiala (now in India). Their father then became the disciple of Fateh Ali Khan, the father of the famous Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and young Sher Ali was the student of Bakhshi Salamat Ali Qawwal.
Mehr and Sher Ali thus acknowledge that the family of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is their “ustad gharana” or “teacher house,” a term imbued with veneration among musician circles in Pakistan and North India. Mehr Ali was taught by Muhammad Ali Fareedi, an ordained Sufi qawwal at the shrine of the 13th-century Sufi, Baba Farid.
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 Allah (God). The roots of Qawwali can be traced back to 8th century Persia and have blossomed into its present form from the 13th century onwards, it emphasizes poetic texts that usually deal with topics of divine love (‘ishq), the sorrow of separation ( hijr, firaq) and mystic union ( visal). Qawwali texts cover Arabic and Persian, but the main text body is usually in a simple idiom form of Indian languages: Urdu, Hindi, Purbi and Punjabi.
All qawwals must have a deep knowledge of Sufi poetic texts. In practice, this often means sacrificing musical quality to retain purity of text. Meher and Sher are qawwals who have achieved the rare combination of both musical quality and authentic text rendition: Sher is known for his abiliity to understand the importance of rhythm (lai-kari) and render classical modes in a strong voice, while Mehr’s heart-rending high- pitched voice strikes the heart (zarb-ul-qalb) when the poetry contains words of entreaty or sorrow. Qamar ali on the tabla generates more classical detail on his tabla than is normally expected of a qawwali tabla and says, “I strive to recite poetry with my hands.
”The group feels that their music brings harmony and peace to the soul and projects the message of love and unity for all. “We sometimes go into a trance during our performance, so moved are we by the text and music,” says Mehr Ali.
The brothers believe that their Qawwali is a universal invitation to all living beings to share in the feelings of the powerful emotion of pure love, the pain of separation and the joy of union.