Farid Ayaz and Abu Mohammad perform at Napa on Friday night.—Shakil Adil / White Star
Farid Ayaz and Abu Mohammad perform at Napa on Friday night.—Shakil Adil / White Star

The Bazm-i-Aqeedat organised by the music department of the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) has become a regular feature of the academy’s Ramazan programming.

For the last eight years, the inimitable duo of Farid Ayaz and Abu Mohammad has been at the centre of it all. They arrive on stage around midnight and perform for more than a couple of hours to a hall that has seldom had an empty seat.

On Friday night, the pair did the same, and it would not be wrong to claim that each passing year their performance seems to outdo their previous stints on the Napa platform.

As always, the qawwal group set the tone for the night with the beautiful and soulful ‘Lam yaat-i-nazeer-o-kafi-nazarin’ by Ala Hazrat Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi.

The passion with which Farid Ayaz and Abu Mohammad read the na’at is something that the younger generation of qawwals must observe. The pair gets totally immersed in the kalaam; and Farid, being the elder of the two, has this habit of translating the words into Urdu in case some members of the audience don’t understand the Arabic and Persian phrases used by Ala Hazrat. It was just magnificent.

Remarkably, the shift to ‘Zeenat-i-Yaseen tui’ was just as heart-warming. Here one must mention that while the brothers are often hailed for their qawwali renditions, it’s their understanding of the art of music and its finer points that is just as awe-inspiring.

The beat, for example, for the second kalaam required a transition that wasn’t easy, but they did it effortlessly. This is the reason that Farid Ayaz and Abu Mohammad, today, arguably, are the finest exponents of qawwali in the world. Not even in India where a big number of similar groups perform all year round, there’s anyone who could match their passion or skills.

And how can any performance by the two not have the soul-stirring qaul ‘Man kunto Maula’? The moment they start the qaul the audience readies itself to sway with the beat. Their rendition on Friday night was full of energy and spiritual oomph. Those who had packed the hall a little after midnight enjoyed the piece to the hilt. And their appreciation of the brothers’ performance was no less generous.

Earlier, head of the music department of Napa Nafees Ahmad and director programmes of the academy Arshad Mahmud welcomed the guests.


Originally published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2019

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