“Qawwali is always about love,” concluded Ally Adnan. “It can be but is not always about God. It can be but is not always about religion. It is not tied to any one religion. It is essentially about the connection between a lover and his beloved.”

Well-known writer, musicologist and cultural commentator conducted a workshop on the tradition of qawwali, under the auspices of the Pakistan American Cultural Center, in Karachi recently. The highly successful event included both a lecture and a demonstration and was attended by more than two hundred people.   

Ally Adnan traced the roots of qawwali back thirty-two centuries to the Vedic period when it existed in its primitive form of chants in temples. He explained the evolution of the qawwali through samaa, zikr, chanting and other forms up until the thirteenth century when Muslim clerics and Sufis started using the qawwali to attract inhabitants of South Asia to Islam. The practice of qawwali, in various primitive forms, gained in popularity as musicians, ascetics, clerics, mystics, philosophers, scholars, and Sufis moved to the region from Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and other countries. It was at this time that qawwali came to be associated with Islam although the tradition predates Islam by a few centuries.    

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