Faiz Ali Faiz All Ages Critic's Choice Recommended

When: Sun., June 14, 7 p.m. 2009

Given what’s on the news these days, it’s easy to think of Pakistan as synonymous with strife and violence—which makes it especially important for Americans to remember the country’s rich culture. Few artistic traditions, from Pakistan or anywhere else, can match the beauty and power of the Sufi devotional music known as qawwali. It’s essentially poetry about divine love, sung with soaring drama and ornate variation; the lead vocalist is egged on by percolating tabla and steady hand claps, a driving call-and-response chorus, and a droning, pulsing harmonium that often shadows the melody. Though qawwali is nearly seven centuries old, it didn’t become well-known abroad till the rise of the great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in the late 80s. Since his death in 1997 several vocalists have been jockeying for his throne, and Faiz Ali Faiz is among the most promising—on the 2004 CD Your Love Makes Me Dance he even dared to tackle songs closely associated with the master. Ali Faiz sings with a supple tone and dazzling rhythmic elasticity, gesticulating passionately as he submerges himself in the music (qawwali groups traditionally perform seated, and the vocalists “dance” with their hands). Like Ali Khan, who collaborated with pop artists and electronic-music producers, he pushes the boundaries of the genre: his most recent release, Qawwali Flamenco (Accords Croises), documents a concert with flamenco greats including Miguel Poveda and Chicuelo. As good as Ali Faiz’s recordings are, though, qawwali is best experienced live, where it can be just as entrancing for the listener as it is for the performers. —Peter Margasak

Price: $20, $18 Old Town School members, $16 seniors and kids

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