June 3, 2006
Syed Abid Gilani and Syed Rashid Kazmi, both I knew from the NGO working in Kashmir earthquake, were two among the people who organized a Naat concert, or Mahfil-e-Naat in Rawal Town, an area between Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Naat is an Islamic tradition here, to chant teachings about the religion in melidious way. It’s comparable to Nashid music in Malay tradition, minus the musical instruments. So a Naat singer (actually the people dont like to say Naat as song/gana, as Naat is from Quran and even it’s melodious we should avoid calling Naat as song) will chant the religious melody, and someone might accompany him with beating background vocal and it somehow turned to be like Acapella music. The background vocal sounds like Kalimah (the holy sentence) to be pronounced over and over with a certain beat.
Today, the Naat star tonight is Syed Awais Qadri. My friend said that he was the Michael Jackson of Naat. No wonder that the audience were overwhelming. The concert started at midnight, and ended at 3 am. I also like Awais Qadri’s Naat and have saved some MP3 files in my harddisk. For the audience, listening to Naat is like religious extacy, everybody will shake their head and body, some will wave the hands, and yelled the holy sentences. Narai Takbir, Narai Risalat, Narai Haidri were yelled by the audience when a Naat finished. There were thousands of people coming, mostly attracted by the star of the night, Awais Qadri. I was lucky I knew the organisators as my close friends, so I could get the best place. Some of my friends even sat on the stage next to the performers.
There were some lesser Naat performers before Awaiz Qadri. Every single Naat is then continued by speech, then Naat is chanted again. The ‘songs’ are also teaching, and related to the speech. Mostly about love to God and Prophet. And some hard beat of it will make the audience in extacy, or in trance. There was a guy sitting at the front seat, fell in trance as he screamed, couldnt stop, but also couldnt talk. Just screamed.
The audience of the performance was also a fantastic scene. Thousands of people sitting together in open midnight air, and everybody was in religious extacy, resembled an ocean of men with its waves when they shaked their bodies to left and right.
Awais Qadri was such an important person, that when he came to the stage, everybody was standing and attempted to see his face in closer distance, some even tried to kiss his palm and legs. The situation was quite uncontrolable. The star almost slipped down when he tried to climb the stage, as a man tried to kiss his hand. The man was thrown away by Awais, accidentally, otherwise Awais himself would fell down from the stairs.
Awais performed some Naats. One of them was about the universality of the religion, that it covered people from all regions and languages, Panjabi, Pathani, Sindhi, Baluchi, Angrezi, Chini. His speech reminded me to famous Indonesian religious teacher AA Gym.
Awais Qadri was talking about culture of Naat (Naat ki Aadat), saying that one shouldnt wave their hands when listening, and especially being overacting as the camera from QTV shoot their faces. One should be quiet, close eyes, and listen, and meditating. Of course one can wave hand when saying Narai, but it should be done spiritually, not to grab attention of the cameras.
My friend, Syed Khalid Raza, was sitting on the stage together with performers. He protested that Awais Qadri, in previous performance in other place, suggested people to wave their hands. But he was asked not to discuss further.
The performance finished at 3 in the morning, and now everybody had problem of transport to go home. It was ended by prayers, but we decided to leave before the prayer finish, as the audience were also turned to be turmoil rush, and even leaving that performance stage was very difficult.