Authored Article

Qawwalis: From The Silver Screen To Silence-A Lost Genre

By Ojasvi Kapoor
October 31, 2023
Qawwalis: From The Silver Screen To Silence-A Lost Genre

Music industry has seen its ups and downs but there has always been an audience dedicated, not to pop music or classic , but to the less mainstream genre of qawali.

Do you know about Qawali, the enchanting and soulful music that has been a part of our cultural heritage for centuries? While Qawali is still loved by many, it's not as common in today's movies. Why is that? Let's explore the reasons.

In today's world, people's taste in music has shifted. Most movies now feature modern music styles like pop, rock, and hip-hop. These genres are popular and catchier to many, making it a bit harder for traditional Qawali to find its place in films.

In India you have seen qawwalis appearing from time to time. They claimed their rightful place after a not-so-brief interval when item numbers seized the front seat.

Commercial Concerns

Movies are a big business. Filmmakers often aim to make movies that will attract a large audience. This means they choose music that will appeal to the masses. Qawali, being a bit of a niche music style, doesn't always fit this commercial goal.

Sometimes, Qawali is not entirely gone from movies. Instead, it gets mixed with other music styles, creating something new and unique. This can be a good thing as it keeps the music alive, but it might not be what Qawali purists are looking for.

Aabha Hanjura, a Folk Fusion Singer, Songwriter, and Composer, believes that,”Sufi music is a timeless genre. It doesn't necessarily rely on Bollywood films to sustain itself because it has its own dedicated audience. People not only appreciate the traditional style but also enjoy contemporary adaptations of Sufi music. Artists in this genre are thriving and continue to perform in various shows. I also perform contemporary Sufi fusion with my band Sufistication and we play successful concerts for this genre across the world.”

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In the context of Bollywood films aabha adds,”the musical landscape constantly evolves as new generations come into the scene. However, even if Sufi music faces a decline in its presence, I have no doubt that it will make a comeback. It has been thriving for quite some time, and I believe it will continue to do so in the future.”

Cultural Shifts

The world is always changing, and so is what people like. Our values, interests, and what we enjoy in movies change over time. This can affect how Qawali fits into modern movie storytelling. Sometimes, it might not quite fit the theme or context of a movie.

Qawwali music is a genre that demands patience and a deep understanding of its poetry.Nanni Singh, CEO of ShowCase Events, highlights the depth of Sufi Qawwali and how it serves as a vehicle for expressing character emotions and scene sentiments in films ,”Sufi qawwali, in particular, holds significant depth. However, in today's fast-paced world with short span videos and audios and similar trends, the music has become shorter and people's attention spans have decreased. Full qawwali performances, as they were traditionally enjoyed, seem to be a rare occurrence nowadays.Qawwali, as a genre of music, is a way to express the emotions of characters in a film and convey the sentiments of the scenes. It features some of the finest poetry. Sufi music evokes strong emotions. However, in contemporary movies, when Sufiyana qawwali elements appear, they often limit it to a dargah scene with artists singing qawwali.

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She discussed Recent notable examples that include popular qawalies and says "Khwaja Mere Khwaja" and a few in "Bajrangi Bhaijaan." While "Bajrangi Bhaijaan" had qawwali scenes in a dargah, "Khwaja Mere Khwaja '' was shot in a fort, showing the impact of qawwali within a royal setting. However, it's clear that the style of incorporating qawwali has changed over the years."

Sufi music requires a certain softness and understanding and needs to be contemporised in a sensitive way.  Qawwals have adapted to contemporary styles to engage a younger audience. The genre should evolve to stay relevant and films should intersperse this art form with the emotions in the script.

To preserve our traditional qawwali, it's essential to focus more attention on this beautiful and soulful art form, ensuring it finds its place in the hearts of future generations.

While Qawali is not as common in contemporary movies, it's important to remember that it's not gone. It's still cherished and celebrated by many. The changes in movies and the entertainment industry have led to a shift in what we hear on the big screen, but Qawali remains a beloved part of our rich cultural heritage.

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