July 25, 2024

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Exploring the Mystical Melodies: Songs of the Sufi Premieres at the Ceylon Literary and Art Festival 2024. – The Weekend Online

2 min read

Karachi-based producer and filmmaker, Shahrukh Waheed, unveils his labour of love, “Songs of the Sufi,” a feature-length musical film that delves deep into the history and culture of classical qawwali. Qawwali, the soul-stirring singing of mystics from the Indian Subcontinent, initially gained global recognition through the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Despite its widespread appeal, little is known about the intricate history, culture, and philosophy that underpins this enchanting art form. The narrative unfolds through the lens of two families intimately connected to the world of qawwali; a devoted qawwali enthusiast with a childhood immersed in its melodies and his Sufi-oriented mother, reflecting on her pre-partition India listening experiences. The film also features qawwali singers residing in the Shoe Market of Karachi, Pakistan, who have been passing down the tradition for an astounding twenty-five generations.

“Songs of the Sufi” intricately captures the roots, etiquette, locations, and spiritual dimensions of this 13th-century musical genre. Originating from the famous sufi seminary of Nizamuddin Auliya, qawwali represents a spontaneous fusion of cultures and singing styles. The film explores both oral traditions and academic sources, providing a comprehensive view of this unique musical tradition. Director Shahrukh Waheed, a seasoned producer and filmmaker, weaves together a rich tapestry of personal experiences, actual qawwali performances, and the life stories of qawwals to offer insights into various qawwali types and their profound messages.

The film is a testament to 800 years of unbroken tradition, cataloguing the story of traditional qawwali through the eyes of two families deeply connected to its essence. Dr. Kathrine Schoefield, Head of Kings College Music Department and a renowned musicologist, contributes academic perspectives, enriching the film with her extensive expertise in Raaga-based singing. Kamran Moin Anwar, the executive producer, took a year-long sabbatical from his finance career to embark on this project, driven by a passion for qawwali and a mission to preserve its classical roots. His prior work includes directing ‘Rung,’ a collection of traditional Qawwali CDs with 5 million+ YouTube views, and narrating, ‘Hidden Gems of Lahore,’ a series uncovering the city’s unique historic sites. The credits boast a talented team, including cinematographer Nadir Siddiqui, Editor Husain Qaizar, and Sound Editor Anser Soomro. The film is set to be screened during the Ceylon Literary and Art Festival 2024 at the British Council Library in Colombo on Monday, February 12th, from 4:30pm to 5:30pm, offering a unique opportunity for audiences to immerse themselves in the enchanting world of ‘Songs of the Sufi.’ Admission is free, inviting all to experience the magic of this mesmerizing musical journey.

Film Credits

  • Executive Producer: Kamran Moin Anwar
  • Producer: Kamran Moin Anwar
  • Director: Shahrukh Waheed
  • Cinematographer: Nadir Siddiqui
  • Editor: Husain Qaizar
  • Recording and Sound Editor: Anser Soomro
  • Co-Producer: Katherine Butler Schoefield
  • Associate Producer: Humera Afzal


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