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Newark Muslim gathering to feature qawwali music performance May 24, 2008

Posted by lollywoodhungama in Uncategorized.
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NEWARK — Although qawwali music can inspire devotees to enter an ecstatic trance, the point isn’t to succumb to sensual abandon but to explore the depths of the soul.

One highlight of Sunday’s “Respecting Cultural Values: A Criterion for World Peace” conference in Newark is a performance of qawwali samaa, devotional music borne in South Asia of the Muslim Sufi sect.

“When we sing qawwali, we get so much into it,” said Mohammed Shaan of Tracy, who sings and plays harmonium. “It’s just like a prayer.”

Shaan is set to perform with an ensemble at the fifth annual Milad Shareef conference hosted by the Fremont-based Islamic Educational and Cultural Research Center, in honor of Islam’s founding Prophet Muhammad.

The event is from 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday at Mehran Restaurant, 5774 Mowry School Road, and will offer Indian and Pakistani food, poetry recitals in various languages and more. Admission is free.

Shaan, who is from the Fiji Islands and whose grandfather came from Pakistan, said he doesn’t consider himself a professional musician, but he has performed for more than 30 years and had his own group back home with tabla and tambourine players.

Although he knows other music styles, the Sunni follower said a recent illness spurred him to focus more on religious songs, including qawwali samaa.

Sharaaz Khan, the Islamic center’s director and manager of its Sacramento chapter, said qawwali arose when Muslim teachers came to the Indian Subcontinent and found a Hindu population that was “very caught up in music.”

 

Because Khan said Islam restricted the kind and amount of music people could listen to, the emissaries adapted native songs involving “worldly love” in service of the new religion. Practitioners say the result, a Persian-flavored hybrid, conveyed the message of “true love,” love of God.

“Qawwali has a devotional significance,” Khan said. “The words, the meaning, all go back to a devotion to God and a belief in the holy Prophet Muhammad and the saints that followed him.”

Made famous in the West by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a Pakistani singer whose work appeared in the films “Dead Man Walking” and “Natural Born Killers,” qawwali music spurs devotees to experience the divine within them.

Ayyaz Yousaf of Hayward, the center’s managing director, said the experience stands apart from chemical or erotic intoxication.

“It’s just a natural thing, it’s something hidden in everyone’s personal nature,” he said. “It just kind of starts bubbling up. (People) can start dancing or shaking their head or something because they are so much into it.”

Khan said listeners and musicians alike might see “beautiful lights” or visions of Muhammad and his burial place Medina, Islam’s second-holiest city, as the vibrant sounds surge through the air.

“It’s beyond what the eye can understand or what the mind can understand,” he said. “By listening to this beautiful music, the beautiful meanings of words, the rhythm of the tabla, all of these create a sensation. One stares into the reflection of god.”

As Hindus historically encountered Islam through qawwali, Khan said he hopes newcomers to the conference will consider Sufism in a new light through song.

“Music is beyond cultures,” he said. “It’s one way to bridge the gaps that exist.”

For more information on the conference, visit www.maulud.org.

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