Blu-Qawwali will be a collection of new hybrid works that will link the traditions of jazz and the vocal style of Pakistani qawwali.
As a Pakistani-American jazz musician my music is a unique blend of influences from both my birthplace within the Indian subcontinent and my adopted homeland, the U.S. By 2009, I had released eight albums of jazz, inspired mostly by instrumental Indian classical music. In 2010 I aspired to delve deeper into my Pakistani roots by focusing on the vocal-centric music of Pakistan called qawwali. For my ninth album, I reconvened my ensemble, Invocation and recorded Suno Suno – a suite of original instrumental jazz compositions informed by my admiration of qawwali.
Since then, my appreciation of qawwali and its potential to enhance my compositional ability has deepened exponentially. My current ambition is to further expand my knowledge of the genre through a more nuanced and consequential approach, directly engaging an ensemble of both jazz and qawwali musicians. Up till this point my focus has been to create jazz instrumental music influenced by South Asian traditions. At present, for the first time I wish to bring together in one ensemble – both jazz musicians and vocalists and instrumentalists from the qawwali tradition.
By collaborating with qawwali musicians within the ensemble, Blu-Qawwali will fundamentally stimulate a stronger hybrid than my previous work. Setting up periodical rehearsals to experiment and expand on the initial written material will be invaluable. Through these formidable rehearsals, as the key composer I intend to write and shape the music over a lengthy period of time, magnifying the collaborative spirit. Some of my directives in the creation process will be: exploring ways that acutely utilize qawwali and jazz musicians in a coexisting manner, merging jazz’s hyper-chromatic nature, harmonic gravity, various rhythmic feels with qawwali’s rhythmic drive, long melodic improvisations and through composed forms.
The created works will move well beyond simply highlighting each genre. Blu-Qawwali is a project that resolves to create a new musical environment that engages two art forms which were never designed for each other, yet carry ample underlying parallels in technique, intention, and spirit. Such an undertaking can best come from a personal experiential paradigm. As an established Pakistani-American jazz composer and guitarist, I have the skills and background to create a body of work that has never previously been realized in this manner, ultimately adding to the great canon of American music and beyond. Blu-Qawwali will also serve as a testament to my dual culture as it will shine a light on my immigrant background, inevitably carrying meaning for other immigrants and also for the established American neighbors who interact with them.
The funds from New Music USA will help to galvanize the process in the following manner: compose initial material, pay for multiple rehearsals over the course of a year, record the group to be released as my sixteenth album.
Thanks For Giving is one composition from a suite I wrote called Suno Suno that focuses on bridging instrumental jazz with influences from qawwali – a vocal-centric music from Pakistan. The piece captures many elements found in qawwali: repetitive motifs, call and response phrasing, long form and forward drive. Creating various solo platforms further helped to create the ebb and flow that pervades qawwali. Featured artists include pianist Vijay Iyer, alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, drummer Dan Weiss, and bassist Johannes Weidenmueller.
I wrote Stepping Stone in 2019 for my collaboration with French harpist Isabelle Olivier. My objective was to write distinct yet complementary parts for guitar and harp in order to create the illusion that the main theme is being played by one instrument. The piece captures influences from my classical guitar training. Also featured are tabla player Prabhu Edouard and drummer David Paycha.
Mystery Rising is the opening piece from my 2017 film score to the 1929 Indian-German silent film, A Throw of Dice. The music supports and aligns with the introduction of multiple characters and scenarios while creating tension through a lens of mystery. The full film runs 74 minutes. The ensemble also features, Pawan Benjamin on saxophones and bansuri flute, Jennifer Vincent on cello and bass, Rohan Krishnamurthy on Indian percussion and Jake Golbas on drums.
Start and End Dates
06/01/2020 — 09/01/2021
New York, New York