Daya Varma


I got an email from Arif Khan, one of the organizers of the Kabir Cultural Center,  informing me of “Qawaali at Hindu Mandir in Montreal” that was held on April 6, 2008.  I found it an exciting event and sent this information to a few friends; here are their responses:


Vinod Mubayi  (co-editor of the Bulletin) wrote from New York: We must make sure to include in the next INSAF Bulletin. We need news like this to lift up our hearts.  “Aah ko chahiye ek umr asar hone tak!” But a bit of background would be useful in setting the context of the letter.


Zafar Iqbal wroite from Washintgon, DC: Thanks for the info. It is a great idea. I WISH I could be there. We are organizing a Hindi-Urdu mushaira on 2nd August. We are also honoring Professor  Satypal Anand in that event.


Arif Khan forwarded me the following e-mail to whom he had sent the message: “This has to be one of their most beautiful mehfils that I have heard. Not just because of the the music. Not just because of the brilliant rendition of Chaap Tilak and their use of Kabir’s Dohas to create a context. Not just because of the uniqueness of Teri Yad hai Mun ka Chain (notice the taal. It is not the typical dhamaal). It is because they have re-enlivened the essence of that great edifice, Indo-Islamic civilization, which reached out to the hearts, minds and souls of people, no matter what their conviction. This is what the Auliyas, sufis, faqirs, malangs, dervishes, yogis and all men and women of sprituality did, drawing upon the fertility of the cultures of India, stirring the spirits and soothing the souls of all peoples. I cried from joy, listening to this, realizing that in this day, where there is so much talk and so little understanding, that the messages of centuries ago are being preserved and building spiritual and cultural bonds among all peoples.


Munshi Razziudin’s soul must be brimming with joy and peace on beholding his sons at this maqaam. They have covered such a long journey from that cold, austere winter of 1990, when they did their first European tour and struggled to find their place under the sun. Allah in ko aur kamiyabian dey, kyun kay in ki niyyatain paak hain.”


Below is a description of the event by T.K. Raghunathan, the Secretary of Kabir Cultural Center, which had invited the artists:


On Sunday April 6, 20008 there was a unique event in Montreal. The hundred-plus gathering who had assembled there for the normal Hindu Mandir service were treated to a unique Qawwali rendering by the famous Farid Ayaz & Abu Mohammed ensemble from Karachi, Pakistan.


Farid Ayaz & Abu Mohammed are sons of the famous Munshi Raziyuddin who himself was a great Qawwali singer and admirer of Kabir’s poetry and philosophy. Farid and his brothers, a group of eight performers, had been invited by Kabir Cultural Centre of Montreal for a concert on 5 April 2008. The concert which was held at the Oscar Peterson Hall was entitled ‘Sufi Eternal’ and was a great success with the combined audience of Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis as well as local mainstream Canadians. The hall with a capacity of over 500 seats was almost full.


After the concert was over, Mr. Subhash Khanna, the Chairman of the West Island Hindu Mandir in Dollard des Ormeaux made a request to the organizers of Kabir Cultural Centre to bring the artists to the temple next day. The schedules had to be rearranged as this was a most unexpected request. The artists readily agreed to rearrange their schedules in order to be at the temple the following day.


On arrival at the temple around noon, the artists were very warmly received by the temple authorities and welcomed with the chanting of auspicious prayers. Then they were taken to the main hall where there was a gathering not only of regular devotees but a group of children who were trained to sing bhajans and they had just finished performing. Mr. Raghunathan of Kabir Cultural Centre made a brief introduction of the artists and the relevance of the artists being at the temple and the belief that ‘Ram aur Rahim mein antar nahin’.


The artists expressed enormous joy at being able to sing at a Hindu Mandir and started performing. As the singing progressed, the audience showed their spontaneous appreciation by placing their contributions in front of them. The artists concluded their presentation with a song that they said was being sung in their families for the past three hundred years, namely a bhajan in praise of Kishan.


After the concert, Farid Ayaz was presented with a shawl and a honorarium to the chanting of Mantras from Hindu Scriptures and the other members of the group were also honored. They were taken to the basement where volunteers from the Mandir entertained them with food and the artists had their lunch in the company of Mr. Subhash Khanna and other the executives of the Hindu Mandir, as well as Mr. Arif Ali Khan and Mr. Raghunathan of Kabir Cultural Centre.”

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