Review – Qawwali – NFAK Tribute Tour at The Y Theatre, Saturday 29th February 2020

Photo: Qawwali by Kevin Gaughan

Reviewed by Kashif Hussain

As part of Qawwali UK’s Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan tribute tour, Chand Ali Khan Qawwal & party performed their own renditions of classic qawwali songs to a packed and enraptured audience at Leicester’s Y Theatre.

For those not in the know, qawwali is a popular type of folk music originating from the Indian subcontinent. Usually associated with Sufism, one of the more spiritual elements of Islam, qawwali concerts feature a party known as a humnawa, consisting of up to nine men including a lead singer, back-up singers, several drummers playing tablas and dholaks and one or two who play the harmonium. They sit cross-legged on the stage as they blend their instruments and voices together into a hypnotic rhythm and momentous, poetic vocals in Urdu or Punjabi.

Qawwali by Kevin Gaughan

The party, headed by Chand Ali Khan and seven others, make quite the impression as they sat on the stage in front of the filled-out theatre in their matching black outfits, while the main vocalist is clad in gold. Their set was made up of songs made famous by the legendary qawwali musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, known as the King of Qawwali. Hugely popular tunes like Mere Rashke Qamar, Ali da Malang and Dam Mastt Qalandar are easily recognisable to any fan of Qawwali, which naturally includes the audience in attendance.

Speaking of the audience, the majority of concertgoers looked to be of South Asian descent but there were plenty of people a diverse range of ethnicities, demonstrating how live music can bring people from all walks of life together. The crowd got positively swept up in the passionate melodies, enthusiastically singing and clapping along.

Chand Ali Khan & co.’s interpretations of well-known tunes served as the perfect introduction of qawwali to newcomers, and an excellent celebration of the medium to anyone else.

Watch some of Qawwali’s performance at The Y Theatre:

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