The year-end qawwali programme at T2F on Saturday, a regular feature of the cultural space, was a nice little event saying goodbye to the year 2017 on the right note. The music, the famous kalaam and a decent number of listeners made it a pretty enjoyable evening.

The traffic situation in the city has become a bit of nuisance, so the Saami brothers (qawwals) arrived a bit late, but somehow managed to set their instruments in the blink of an eye. The harmonium sounded in fine nick. The tabla, unusually, did not take time to tune. And the vocalists warmed up just like that. As a result, the concert started barely 15 minutes late.

Talking to the audience before the show, the leader of the group said it was in 2014 that they were given a chance to perform at T2F by the late Sabeen Mahmud, who set up T2F. To date, the brothers were performing because of her kind gesture.

As it often happens, the qawwali began with the famous ‘Mann kunto Maula’. The brothers took a little time to build up to the first verse, allowing the audience to absorb the spiritual vibe of the composition.

The tiny problem with not having microphones to augment the vocalists’ voices is that sometimes the thumping dhol and the sharp harmonium notes can drown out the vocal parts or render them inaudible, but on Saturday it happened only on one or two occasions.

The second piece that the Saami brothers presented was the inimitable kalaam ‘Merey baney ki baat’. They rendered it with such feeling and passion that is rare among young qawwals. The interesting thing about the audience was that while a few of them were swaying to the beat or humming the tunes, most of them looked transfixed on the group’s style of performing qawwali.

Next up was a mood changer in terms of beat with ‘Wari gai main pia ke’. It had a heartwarming beat cycle and a lovely melody tilt. It was a fine piece by the Saami brothers, because in it they kept the performance simple, with not many vocal variations that qawwals tend to put in to embellish their compositions.

The brothers performed each piece for no less than 20 minutes, which enabled the latecomers to join the concert and easily settle in.

Originally published in Dawn, January 1st, 2018