JESSE NEUMAN____________________trumpet+cornet+live electronics

BROOKLYN QAWWALI PARTY: devotional Sufi music from Pakistan

It is in such times that I cannot help but be saddened by the absence of the great singer, late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. It may have been 10 years since his untimely death, but for those of us who were enraptured by his musical genius, it seems just like yesterday. Thankfully, his memory has been kept alive by countless musicians and non-musicians alike, and it is these people to whom we owe much gratitude. In this day and age, music can do, and has done, a great service to the cause of peace, unity and harmony. 

But it is indeed a pleasant surprise when the ones who carry the torch forward do not understand the language the song is sung in.  This is what enthralled me most the first time I went to see the Brooklyn Qawwali Party (BQP) perform in late 2005. None of the 14 or so band members understood Urdu, or for that matter, the taal and raags being used, yet they still managed to keep the essence of Nusrat’s music alive as they played their string, percussion and wind instruments with fervour and enthusiasm that night many months ago.  As I sat in the audience and listened to trumpeter Jesse Neuman introduce the group at their CD release party a few nights ago, I was humbled and elated. Here were some regular, all-American folks who happened to listen to his music and have now become not only diehard fans, but also propagators of Nusrat’s noble message.“We are honoured to be able to bring Nusrat’s music to you; music that is centuries old and that, we hope, will live on for centuries to come,” Jesse said to a crowd full of people.  Nusrat sang of love for God, for the beloved and for humanity around us. He has touched the lives of millions all over the world. I remember growing up listening to his music and watching countless foreigners, who could not understand a word of what he sang, yet they were in a deep trance and understood that something so compelling could only take one to a higher plane of existence. 

As BQP’s music makes its way into the hearts of thousands of New Yorkers, one can only marvel at the fantastic job the group is doing to bring the richness of Sufism and Pakistani music to mainstream America. We in South Asia are quite familiar with this heritage, but what to say of those who are only familiar with images of terror suspects? I am honoured that in a post-9/11 world where Pakistanis aim to build alliances and relationships with the rest of the US, they have allies and partners that are doing just as good a job as any ambassador can.          (by Zeeshan Suhail)