NEW YORK, April 26, 2016—The Lahore Literary Festival (LLF), one of South Asia’s premier cultural events, will travel to Asia Society New York on May 7-8. This is the first time that a Pakistani literary festival takes place abroad.
LLF in New York will explore contemporary Pakistan, and feature artists, writers, and cultural commentators. In keeping with Asia Society’s mission of promoting mutual understanding between Asia and the U.S., the Festival will present American audience with a more nuanced view of Pakistan, with discussions on fiction and nonfiction writing, music, arts, popular culture, and politics.
Saami Brothers Qawwal performing Qawwali devotional music from the Sufi traditions of Pakistan, will be held on Sunday, May 8. The eight–member ensemble, one of the most accomplished and traditional performers of the form today, will close the first New York edition of the Lahore Literary Festival.
Qawwali blends Iranian, Central Asian, and South Asian poetic, philosophical and musical elements, combining popular music with classical traditions. Strong voices and explosive hand-clapping seek to transport musicians and audience closer to the divine. An ensemble of usually twelve male performers conveys a religious message through music and song based on mystic poetry. The texts usually deal with divine love (‘ishq), the sorrow of separation (hijr, firaq), and union (visal) – these concepts symbolically reinforced and illustrated by the music.
The Saami Brothers were founded by four sons of the critically acclaimed Maestro Ustad Naseeruddin Saami. They grew up in a family with rich musical heritage, referred to as Qawal Bachcha Delhi Gharana. The lineage of this gharana, or “house,” leads back some 800 years, all the way back to Saamat Bin Ibrahim, a principal student of the Sufi saint Hazrat Ameer Khusro.
Keeping the flame of the gharana alive, the Saami Brothers are well versed in a number of languages, and weave various genres of Eastern classical music beautifully into their performances. For this performance, the Brothers will sing the music of Khusro, who is regarded as the “father of Qawwali.” This program is part of Asia Society’s ongoing initiative Creative Voices of Muslim Asia.
Festival participants include former WWF International president Syed Babar Ali; musical artist Zeb Bangash; New York Times columnist Roger Cohen; artist Salima Hashmi; former Ambassador to the U.N. Abdullah Hussain Haroon; physicist Tasneem Zehra Husain; actor, director and screenwriter Sarmad Khoosat; journalist and foreign policy author Ahmed Rashid; and author Sadia Shepard. It will also feature a musical performance by the eight-member qawwal ensemble the Saami Brothers.
LLF, founded by Razi Ahmed in 2012 aims to reclaim and employ Lahore’s cultural significance and influence. A global city under the 12th century Sultanate, capital of the Mughal Empire under Akbar, and cradle of the modern Punjabi civilization under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Lahore has fired the imagination of artists for centuries, inspiring global literature and thought from Milton’s Paradise Lost to Kipling’s Kim to Massenet’s Opera Le Roi de Lahore to John Masters’ Bhowani Junction. This program is part of Asia Society’s ongoing initiative Creative Voices of Muslim Asia.