The Qawwali in International and Digital Music Cultures

By: Shahwar Kibria  

The following paper aims to explore how Qawwali, primarily a spiritual genre of music in India went on to become the national sound of Pakistan and reverberating with the sonic textures of international fusion music, was re-imagined as the Sufi Qawwali of Coke Studio Pakistan. Centred on how the Qawwali became an important denominator of cultural soft power for Pakistan 1950s onwards thereby becoming evident in world music culture with Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s collaboration with Real World records in late 80s; and Pakistani rock band Junoon ushering in Sufi Rock, the paper will be a two-fold enquiry. Firstly, it will study how Coke Studio Pakistan becomes an active archive of the folk and spiritual music of South Asia materialized in the realm of post-digital media ecology. Secondly, it will analyse how sensate music cultures of Islam respond to and interact with the synaesthetic audiovisual regime of the music video which surrounds, nurtures and transforms them, and leads to reinvented forms that maintain a connection with Islamic thought and musical practices even as they circulate globally in their contemporary forms. In the contemporary international pervasiveness of digital internet music cultures, I identify the Sufi Qawwali in Coke Studio Pakistan as a phenomenon facilitating the incursion of the sound of the Chishtiya khanqahs as a veritable sound of international musicality.

Qawwali, Coke Studio, South Asian Sufism, Video Studies, MTV, Post-Digital
2019 Special Focus—Universal Religious Symbols: Mutual Influences and Specific Relationships
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Shahwar Kibria

PhD research scholar , Cinema Studies , Jawaharlal Nehru University , India

I am an Indian research scholar at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. I am trained in English, cinema and media studies having earned my B.A. Hons. in English from St. Xaviers' College, Calcutta and an M.A. in Film Studies from Jadavpur University, Calcutta. I am interested in studying the aurality, acoustemology, and sonic cultures of Islam, the emergent globality of an Islamic soundscape in a post-digital context, against a larger dynamics of troubled/contested geographies, Islamophobia, race, gender, identity and media convergence. My larger intellectual aim lies in exploring the synergies between Islamic mysticism and contemporary international popular culture to archive the post-modern and global experience of Islam through cinema, music and media cultures.