Qawwali : A Medieval form of Art

Qawwali : A Medieval form of Art

(GS Paper I : Art and culture )

Context : By last weak , an exhibition is going on in Delhi where the picture of the qawalls of 700 olds have been displayed  by Sufi Kathak Foundation


  • Qawwali is the medieval art of music which is similar to the Bhajan sung by Hindu . Similarly Qawallies are sung by the Sufis to praise God . Qawwali was pure religious art of medieval India and it became famous during the 14th century after Amir Khusrou .
  • Qualli is terme derived from qaul which means to speak . Qawwalis are sung as a prayer form of God by  Sufi . 
  • There are one or two vocalists in Qawalli and In chrus 10 -15 singers used to sing with hand clapping . The main singer uses Harmonium and other artists may use Dholak or tabla or any other musical instruments. 
  • Qawwali takes place in the mehfil-e samāʿ(a type of gathering on any auspicious occasion ). Amir Khusrou , the poet contemporary to Muhammad Bin Tughlaq was the founder of Indian Qawalli in persian Hindi language . Besides Amir Khusrou, poet Rumi and Hafez also composed many Qawwalies 
  • A musical genre Qawwalies are similar to Hindustani classical music . It draws from the same pool of melodic frameworks (ragas) and metric patterns (talas) as classical music, and it uses a formal structure similar to that of the khayal  song genre. Like khayal, qawwali performances feature a mixture of evenly paced metric refrains and rhythmically flexible solo vocal improvisations, which make extensive use of melisma (singing of more than one pitch to a single syllable).
  •  Development : This music became popularized outside of India during the 19th century mainly in South Asian Countries . It was not popular beyond South East Asian countries but after 20th century it spreaded in entire world 
  • Singers of Indian subcontinent (Pakistani) Haji Ghulam Farid Sabri and his brother Maqbool Sabri spreaded this qawalli to America also during the decade of 1970s . With the effort of Nusrat fatesh Ali Shah and it became globally recognised form of the music 
  • After globalization the nature of the Qawwali has changed . Now this can be sung at any non religious place and on any occasion and this is not necessary with traditional rhythm . Moreover, the musical forms, instrumentation, and texts often are adjusted specifically to satisfy the tastes and expectations of international audiences.
  • India and Pakistan both agreed to work  together for the development and flourishing of this cultural tradition of Qawwalies . This is listed with the heritage list of the UNESCO 


This Qawwali is the cultural heritage for India as well as Pakistan also. Now we see the declining phase of the Qawwali in India because of the new form of music (Rap songs). This is the duty of all art lovers to protect and preserve this musical tradition of India . Sufi Kathak Foundation is doing well in this regard . The work and efforts of the curator of the foundation Manju Chaturvedi is really appreciable . She has been working for more than 25 years to flourship this traditional kawwali . 

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