International Mystic Music Sufi Festival in Karachi

Posted on May 4, 2007
Filed Under >Bilal Zuberi, Culture & Heritage, Music, Religion
87 Comments
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Bilal Zuberi

I had heard of Doctors without Borders and Reporters without Borders, but when I saw a headline in a Pakistani newspaper about Mystics without Borders, it was a first for me and certainly caught my attention.

It turns out a fascinating festival by the name of the “International Mystic Music Sufi Festival” is currently being celebrated in Karachi at the Bara Dari. The festival is being organized by the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, which is also the group that has been responsible for the popular World Performing Arts and Theatre Festival held annually in Lahore.

This Sufi festival is the first of its kind in Karachi and certainly an encouraging sign that people are able to express and share their sentiments, devotion, spirituality and passion in diverse ways. This festival is expected to last until May 7, and with an entrance fee of just Rs 300, it promises a lot of entertainment and education to Karachiites. According to the organizers, performers from over 70 countries have been invited to present their specialties in muslim sufi rituals, including music, songs and dances. There are performers from as far away as Syria which can be a delight to watch.

ATP has written before (here, here, here, here, here and here) on some of the great mystic poets and we wish to join the participants in this festival in spirit.

According to the media report:

Usman Peerzada of the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop said that the group’s main aim had been to bring festivals to Pakistan since 1992 and now, as a result of their efforts, the World Performing Arts Festival had become the largest festival of Asia. “Festivals are living festivals and we aim to make the Sufi festival into just that. So please, own the festival,” he said in his address to the audience.

Daily Times spoke to Faizan Peerzada, the master-mind behind the show, to ask him what his audience could expect out of this festival. “A lot of variety. Some of these performers, like the Syrian performers can alone perform for four hours, but we have condensed it into a performance of 32 minutes so that we can manage 17 performances in one day. We have tried to bring together as many performers here as was possible and each one of them is performing a different Islamic tradition, so there’s a collection of so many aspects, which makes this festival unique.”

and the performances so far seem to have kept up to their high expectations:

The curtain raiser began with a performance by Zain-ul-Abideen Shah also known as Jumman Shah and his troupe of five people who sang a qafi by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. Their performance was followed by a mind-blowing performance by Mithoo and Goonga Saeein, who presented an instrumental using dhols while three of their members whirled around, representing the ecstasy so indispensable to the Sufi tradition. The next performance was by an Iranian four-member group called Bidaat, after which Kathak dancer Sheema Kirmani stole the show with her brilliant performance on Ameer Khusro’s aaj rang hai. With her group of two male dancers and two female, she brought the words to life and used the vacuum of the stage as a canvas portraying a beautiful painting that she successfully displayed to an audience that erupted in a round of applause for her.

Another one of the most appreciated performances of the curtain raiser was by Saeein Zahoor who performed a kalaam by Baba Bulleh Shah. Zahoor is a recipient of the BBC World Music Award and performed for an approximate 10 minutes, not a single second of which could be termed as a ‘drag’. A Syrian group called “Sham group of Syrian and Andalusian Music” performed next and recited verses from the Holy Quran.

We hope this Sufi Festival will become a local tradition, and that such art, folk, mystic, music, poetic, dance, and religious festivals will be held regularly in a city that still hosts one of the most diverse and culturally steeped citizenry.

87 responses to “International Mystic Music Sufi Festival in Karachi”

  1. jayjay says:

    If I am not wrong, Islam mostly spread in the Indian subcontinent through the efforts of Sufis and mystics. The diluted version, which included singing and dancing due their cultural significance locally, presented by mystics was easier to sell in India. Until Saudi Arabian oil boom started funding Salafiism worldwide, it was the Sufis’ Islam (which is softer, non-violent and more palatable) was predominantly practised in Pakistan.

    Had the invaders brought along the puritanical Salafi/Wahabi version of Islam, I doubt there would have been so many takers of that religion in India. Now if Sufi Islam is considered heretical, does that mean that the earlier generations of Paki/Indian believers were lesser Muslims? Why can’t we have a local tinge to Islam, which was primarily evolved in an Arabian milieu, to adapt it to local conditions?

    PS: My comments are not meant to offend Islam or anyone.

  2. Muhammad says:

    Our South Asian culture is a treasure that we have to own and to celebrate. It is good that we are doing so and making links with others on it. Good job.

  3. Haroon says:

    I went with my family to the Sufi Music festival. It was a great event and was very well organized. We nee dto project this true side of our culture rather than outsiders try to highjack our real heritage with their version of Arabism. We are not Arabs so lets not try to act like them.

    Good job, Rafi peer.

  4. Adnan Siddiqi says:

    Islam is all about Submission to Allah. the day you liberals understand the real meanings of it, you people will start seeking such excuse in religion.

  5. Adnan Siddiqi says:


    am I supposed to not be practising Islam and living Islam at times when I am doing the dhammal or shaking my head to Qawwali?

    Questions like these becomne reasons for Bidat[Innovations] in Islam when people try to justify their personal fantasies by associating with religion. At one side they want to be in “good book” of God by chanting “Hey I am muslim” while on other hand they are not willing to give their habits. One could comeup something similar lameness by asking ,’am I not practising Islam while I am busy in drinking? see I am reciting darood in my heart!!’

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