Tuesday, July 12
Are you a devotee of God or a mouse? Make up your mind.
Coming into this world I looked this way and that. Wherever I looked I saw only You.
The Hindus see You in their idols, the Muslims see You in the Ka'aba. They both have a limited view. I believe only one thing. There is You, only You.
By the time Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan comes to that point in the qawwali -- a Sufi devotional song -- the audience (mostly Muslims and Sikhs) is roaring approval. This was in Birmingham, England in 1993, so I'm not sure he could have gotten away with adding those lyrics to his version of Allah Hoo ("God is God") in today's Pakistan. But I'm sure he wouldn't have cared if he angered all the Muslim religious leaders in the entire world, nor would he have cared if terrorists had plugged him.
Once an American doctor who was trying to treat him for life-threatening health conditions, which Ustad paid no mind to, asked him in frustration, "Do you want to die?" He replied that the time of his death would be up to God.
He died at the age of 48, four years after the barnraiser in Birmingham, but fortunately the entire concert was filmed and broadcast on British TV. An English translation of the lyrics was added for the TV audiences; this was for a tribute that by coincidence turned out to be aired on the day of his (unexpected) death.
This means there's no excuse for you not to sing along. Of course you don't have to sing along with the part where he praises the Prophet. Again, these are Sufis I'm talking about; I think they see Muhammad as their personal guru and at any rate the highest manifestation of humanity. He's not my idea of the highest manifestation, all right Pundita, don't start.
The style of singing you're hearing in the qawwali is pure technique even though it's infused with the Sufi singers' and musicians' unwavering devotion to God. Where did the technique come from? From humanity's distant past. To quote from Pundita's Unabridged History of the Human Race:
In the old days, there you were out in the middle of nowhere when no temple was around and no priest available to perform the proper rirtuals. But you had a great need to petition the god for help in dealing with some calamity that befell your tribe. What to do?
Make as big a racket as possible to catch the god's attention, then offer the only thing you can offer -- your devotion to the god. Just to be on the safe side, also yodel your request in case the god didn't understand all your words. (Humans -- always thinking.)Anyhow, this kind of singing lent itself to the Sufi praises of God, and the rest is recorded history, some of which Ustad Nusrat recounted during an interview (English subtitles) that was aired on TV after each song in the concert.
Here is the YouTube video of Allah Hoo taken from the concert.
And here is the video, also shown at YouTube, of the entire concert, which leads off with Allah Hoo and includes the interview segments. It begins with an announcement of the names of all the musicians and singers in the group as each one seats himself on the stage.
Okay; watch Allah Hoo being sung one time then join in. If you tell me you can't sing -- can you yodel or even yowl? If you say you can't manage either -- can you manage to clap your hands in time to music and hum along?
C'mon, put your heart in it! Unless you want to keep drawing negative energies to yourself with your constant whining.