Saturday, October 16, 2010

Qawwali - a dispassionate analysis

      I asked many of my friends from the audience about that “one word” which sums up the Qawwali performance by Nizami Bandhu in Sampoornanad Auditorium on 15th of October 2010. The choice of adjectives used was not that expected. ‘’Magnificent, awesome, best-ever-evening-so-far, elating, life-changing-experience, tremendous, great and many more” were a few of the responses. My personal experience was somewhere between “the sky and the sea-floor”, given the rapidity with which the main vocalists were diving from poetic excellence to lyrical absurdity. The appetizer that is Amir Khusro’s, Man Kunto Maula was so wonderful that for a moment I thought of bartering myself against the every line sung. It was a pure display of the artistic perfection that is more potent than a dope, more spiritually elevating than the greatest ritual any organized faith can have. But soon afterwards I felt being jettisoned from those heights as the main vocalist began adulterating Khusroos pearls of wisdom with rough gravel of “cheaply humorous” poetry taken from here and there. I do understand  his tragedy that he knew he was catering to an audience who by the virtue of being young were expectedly ‘’too cool’’ and too hostile to the idea of classical and serious spiritual music. After a while it was his compulsion to eulogize drinking to an unreasonable extent. He had no choice but to crack jokes on baldness of frontbenchers and his own dark-complexion. Then the fits of sycophancy were coming again and again when he seemed to be securing his future by singing paeans in praise of Sanjeev Chopra and Director Sir.

            I am not against comedy, no mentally-sound person can be. But the problem is that we need not be carrying that ‘’air of clowns’’ every time inside us. Entertainment is much-needed but someone who is meant to play the flute, need not amuse us by talking about ‘’ten un-common uses a pipe can be put to”! There are moments of seriousness and moments of fun. Spirituality has perhaps little to do with the riot of senses. There are times when we better be more discrete about our idea of enjoyment, when we need to nurture something else inside us that too without laughter and noise.
            But in the larger analysis it was an evening well-spent. Nizami Bandhus had a great connect with the audience, something that made this performance very special. The section of audience from non-Hindi belt particularly the south-Indians had a difficulty understanding the lyrics as well as the jokes and perhaps they were the only ones who didn’t have much to say about this performance. In fact it did  up-set me that they couldn’t enjoy it ‘’fully’’ perhaps although they had their share of joy as well.

            I must conclude by saying that let art not be just a source of gratification of senses. Entertainment isn’t just about laughter and comedy. Art has to be appreciated for sake of the art. Agreed? No? I know. I know what happens when mind is applied to matters of the heart.  Dum Mat Qalandar Mast Mast.

-Ibn Batuta

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