Spirit of the Sufis mesmerise Lahore audience

On June 15th 2023, the Lahore Arts Council (with support from the Aga Khan Foundation) hosted a Mehfil-E-Sama for select audience members. The evening honored several Sufi mystics including “Rumi” and“Bulleh Shah” The initiative aims to promote cultural plurality amongst the community.

Qawwali is a devotional form of singing that fuses Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Indian traditions together and has enjoyed an international audience in recent decades. Over the years several prominent Qawalls have emerged from Pakistan.

One of these prominent Qawwals was Ustad Santoo Khan, who was initially a well known classical music student, who later converted to a Qawwal.

The Santoo legacy livses on today as “Bakhtiar Santoo” was invited to recite several popular “Naats” and “Hamds” of his legendary family. Bakhtiar’s performance style is inline with the ever green performers of yester-years.

There seems to be little commercial adaptiation that the group offers, as compared to most new Qawwals, even his uncle “Asif Ali Santoo” (whom Bakhtiar was a student of). Infact it hardly seems that Bakhtiar is a modern Qawwal at all, as his style seems to imitate that of his grandfather “Ustad Manzoor Santoo”.

As is tradition, the event began with the “Call”. Later the group shifted to selected “Naats” and then to “Hamds”. Bakhtiars classical training showed immensely, as his powerful vocal abilities stunned the audience of both Pakistani’s and foreigners.

The event was ended with “Dhamaal” , which brought several audience members to their feet. When asked, one guest responded that “It was delight to experience the mystical art of Qawwali, Qawwali has always been a part of our heritage and people love it, but they do not get a change to experience it live”.

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