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If you cannot go home, bring home to you: A Sufi night of Qawwali and Karak

Decorated with a Pakistani majlis in the middle and poetic Urdu tones flying in the air: this is how the atrium welcomed the first night of October. Soon after, when the audience started to gather around the floor holding their breaths, the actual fun began. Let me take your hand to the charming world of Qawwali, the sensational experience that was brought to us for the first time by the GU-Q South Asian Society. 

The event was done in collaboration with the Tea Club as Karak was served to the audience with other appetizers. Karak formed another connection between South Asian and Qatari culture that night. 

According to Wikipedia, Qawl (Arabic: قَوْل) is an "utterance (of the prophet)" Qawwāl is someone who often repeats (sings) a Qaul, and Qawwāli is what a Qawwāl sings. Ali Nasir, a sophomore at GU-Q and a member of the GU-Q South Asian Society, provided a less vague definition that, contrary to Wikipedia’s, makes sense. “Qawwali is a form of expression done mainly through music,” he said. It is a genre of Sufi music that originated in Pakistan to show profound love and connection to God. It held religious value, where it was gender segregated and attendees had to perform Wudu first. It later developed into other regions of South Asia and adopted other motives, where it expressed romantic love for people as well. Qawwali depends mainly on a harmonium, a lead singer, and a group of interactive listeners. The Qawwali hosted in GU-Q was modern and a guitar replaced the harmonium. 

“A song that delves into your soul.” This is how Hassan Amin, a Pakistani freshman, described a Qawwali song; a description that even non-Urdu speakers who attended the event relate to. The audience, more than 150, came from all over EC and even from outside Qatar Foundation. They were a diverse group of either homesick South Asians thrilled to find an event that represented their culture or intrigued people who were caught by the amusing vibes. Doaa, a master's student at HBKU, came to experience the Pakistani culture to help her better understand their architectural needs, as she studies Islamic Art and Architecture. 

The club brought two professional singers. One of these singers, Ali Turi, mentioned that although he had performed two Qawwali nights in other EC universities, the one at GU-Q was the best in terms of the audience engagement and the set-up of the event. He added that he did not expect non-Pakistanis to interact with him and was proud to see his country’s culture spread around. Indeed, the amount of involvement by the audience was unexpected even for the organizers. Anupa Khanal, the vice president, stated that volunteers from the audience signed up to sing, taken by the charming atmosphere. She added that they extended the event to 9:45 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. as planned because people did not want to leave. Most of them were dressed in their colorful Pakistani, Hindi, and Nepali cultural attires that added greater joy to the atrium. 

“If you cannot go home, we are bringing a piece of home to you.” That was the implicit slogan of this night. With their traditional outfits and arms waving affectedly high in the air, South Asian attendees had a chance to temporarily experience their faraway homes and culture. You could clearly witness the pride in their eyes and tell that this experience was evocative to all of them. Even the organizers stated that it was not hard to market the Qawwali night; people were craving it.


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