Local Current Blog

Qawwali stars coming to Bloomington with music and intercultural goodwill

Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad perform during a Qawwali concert. (YouTube)

This Saturday, Dec. 8, two of the world’s leading Qawwali musicians, Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad, will be returning to Minnesota for a live Qawwali concert. Held at the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center in Bloomington, the concert aims to bring Qawwali music to Minnesota for more people to hear.

Originating in India during the 13th century, Qawwali music is centered around endearing oneself to God by blending Sufi poetry and music. When a Qawwali concert begins it starts soft and then builds momentum, with the idea of having both the performers and listeners engage and grow with the music. 

“Basically,” said organizer Yusuf Wazirzada, “you endear yourself to God through beautiful thoughts, beautiful words, beautiful acts, which then gives birth to a rich tradition of Sufi poetry which talks about these topics and in which the object of one’s love is the divine or God itself and it underscores the importance of a path that is focused on love, on tolerance and compassion universally.”

This isn’t the first time Qawwali will be coming to Minnesota. After a successful performance last year and positive feedback from audience members, the organizers decided to bring the music back to the Twin Cities.

“We don’t do this for money, we do it for the community,” Wazirzada said. “We were able to get almost 400 people. It was an audition in Bloomington where we held it and most of the folks who attended reached out and said ‘We would like for these guys to come back,’ so that’s why it’s been a little more than a year and so we thought it was time maybe to bring them back.”

The Qawwali concerts Wazirzada and his fellow organizers put on serve two purposes: they provides Qawwali fans with the opportunity to see Ayaz and Muhammad, among the best Qawwali performers in this genre globally, and also gives those who don’t know the music a chance to learn more about a different culture.

“It gives those folks an opportunity to listen to it in real life,” said Wazirzada, “where in most of these times these folks are going to the major cities in California, New York and Chicago. They usually don’t come to the Twin Cities, but because I know them personally we’ve been able to bring them to the Cities for the last couple of years. But also there’s a stereotypical image of Islam and Muslim culture that is portrayed in mainstream media and we, in a very humble way, are trying to balance the scale and reach out to everyone in our community and sharing that Islam is a very rich moral, cultural and aesthetic tradition. The stereotype is not the type.”

To Wazirzada, even if listeners are hesitant about going to the show, there isn’t much of a downside to going and he would encourage people to give Qawwali a chance.

“Just learning something about a different culture, learning something about your neighbors, I can assure you that you will not come back disappointed. In the times we live in it is important to understand the other and I would say that, if nothing else put it to that, understand your neighbors and members of your community.”

Simone Cazares is a student at Saint Paul College. Originally from Miami, Fla., she survives Minnesota’s cruel winters by immersing herself in the Twin Cities music scene.