Sunday, 25 March 2012

Judas Priest, Sufis, Singapore's Esplanade and interreligious harmony

In Singapore and globally, interreligious harmony days come and go. Global forums, international organizations and even local politicians organize such harmony days often – or at least when it serves their political objectives.
For musicians, such events serve a different function. They permit artists from different musical traditions to fuse diverse conventions into a synchronized whole. In this context, the word 'harmony' takes on special meaning.
Pakistan's Sufi musician Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a frequent collaborator with western artists. Following Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's example, many Pakistani Sufi musicians continue to team up with artistes from different backgrounds. One of the younger breed of such Pakistani religious musicians is Faiz Ali Faiz.

Pakistan's Sufi musician, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
I became aware of Faiz just a few days ago when I learnt he is performing at Singapore's Esplanade in April. I confess to knowing little about Faiz. In fact, initially I mistook his name for that of Pakistan's preeminent Urdu poet, the late Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
In today's wired world, there is little reason for ignorant people to remain uninformed for long.
I began my search for information on Faiz at the Fountain of All Knowledge – Wikipedia! (It's so much easier visiting Wikipedia compared to a local library?) Subsequently, I ended up watching several videos of Faiz Ali Faiz qawwalis.
Surely, his 'hard core' devotional Sufi music is not for everyone. (Certainly not for most orthodox mullahs who shirk at the notion of mixing music with religion.)
However, Faiz has some fascinating pieces which appeal to a broader audience. Specifically, Faiz has two performances which stand out: one playing with a Christian gospel group singing praises to God (Amen-Amin) and a second with a Spanish Flamenco ensemble. Faiz and his counterparts blend the diverse oral and instrumental traditions magnificently.
Versus veteran Rocker, Alice Cooper
I am looking forward to Faiz's Singapore concert next month. If nothing else, Faiz Ali Faiz will make a nice change from my recent two concerts by Alice Cooper and Judas Priest.
Imran is a business and management consultant. Through his work at Deodar Advisors, Imran improves the profitability of businesses operating in Singapore and the region. He can be reached at

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