Find hidden faces and stories behind our beloved music

But she also felt that there was an insensitive attitude that most people had towards Qawwals. She said, “It was such that yes these Qawwals sing at dargahs and people will listen for a few minutes and then throw money in front of them and walk away. This is what the public’s whole relationship with Qawwals and Qawwali boiled down to. She sighs, before adding: “Except when people want to vibrate to the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in a ‘Sufi atmosphere'”.

What irritates Chaturvedi the most is that this art form has not been documented despite having the technology to do so. She also understands that not everyone has to be as passionate about Qawwali as she is, but she wanted to document Qawwalis inside the dargahs“at this moment, in this energy”.

There is no sense of respect or envy to support these artists, Chaturvedi streets. Having supported many Qawwal families, financially and otherwise, over the past two years, Chaturvedi has seen how the pandemic has knocked them out of shape, leaving them with broken spirits wondering when they will sing again.

However, much to his delight, photographers Dinesh Khanna, Mustafa Quraishi and Leena Kejriwal have joined the Chaturvedi bandwagon. Khanna began by capturing Meraj Ahmed Nizami Qawwal, who was Delhi’s oldest Qawwal at the age of 92. Grins Chaturvedi, “Dinesh has traveled extensively and been drawn into the world of this beautiful art form.”

Chaturvedi points out that upon seeing his exhibit, many people were surprised that Qawwali exists outside of Awadh, Delhi and Ajmer. She explains: “The same musical form was adapted differently in different places with the local dialect and the local language. We wanted to keep this intact, to show the places the Qawwals belonged to.

Jack C. Nugent