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Riyaaz Qawwali. Image courtesy Riyaaz Qawwali.
Qawwali: An Islamic Musical Tradition Reaches New Audiences May 07, 2020
Sonny, who leads a Texas-based qawwali group, prefers to use his first name only because he wants audiences to focus on the music, not his religious affiliation. He explains that qawwali began in South Asia more than 700 years ago and is rooted in the poetry of Sufism, a mystical approach to Islam. Sonny’s band, however, Riyaaz Qawwali, draws on many South Asian traditions and languages in its lyrics and rhythms. The band’s fan base is growing increasingly diverse, with many saying they don’t need to understand the words to appreciate what Sonny calls “South Asian gospel music.”
Sonny, artistic director of Riyaaz Qawwali