Susheela Raman is collaborating with Lahore’s qawwali singers

In The Guardian, Susheela Raman explains how they learned to make music together:

Sufism has many facets and many different styles – it penetrates every level of Pakistani society. Even the qawwals vary. The Mian Mir are a group of working class qawwals who for centuries have performed at an 18th-century shrine in praise of the Sufi saint Mian Mir. Fresh rose petals and green cloths are laid on the tomb around which people sit in states of prayer. Around the shrine however, there is heavy security as Sufi gathering places have been bomb targets (popular Sufism is an anathema for some Salafist Muslims who regard the traditional South Asian reverence for saints and even for the Prophet as a kind of polytheism.) And today, because of government fears for public safety, the qawwalis can only sing at the Mian Mir shrine once a year. This is heartbreaking for them. Lead vocalist Mehboob Khan says he learned to sing alongside his father who performed here every Thursday night for 25 years. It was a family tradition has been passed down for generations.

Sam and I are due to perform with the Mian Mir qawwalis at Lahore’s Rafi Peer auditorium. The Rafi Peer has been bombed three times and now has extensive security measures in place, but it is determined to continue supporting traditional music, no matter what. The event is by invitation only and is not publicised in the newspapers.

We start practising together. Because qawwali music has drones, choruses and driving rhythms there is a lot to latch on to. Some previous fusions with qawwali have gone towards the dreamy, but we are aiming to match their energy and their sense of immediacy. Our songs and sounds mix and merge. More:

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