A traditional Sufi favorite got a fresh airing in New York City last week when Pakistani singer-songwriter Arieb Azhar and his band closed out their eclectic July 3 concert with a cover of "Dama Dam Mast Qalandar," a Qawwali song beloved across South Asia, and made popular by such performers as Runa Laila of Bangladesh and Azhar's fellow Pakistanis Ahmed Rushdi and Abida Parveen, among many others.
(The song is partly an homage to the 12th/13th-century Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, whose Urs, or death anniversary, was commemorated with three days of public events earlier this week in Sehwan, Pakistan. Asia Society Senior Advisor Hassan Abbas has a helpful overview of the Urs today on his blog, Watandost.)
After the performance, Azhar spoke to Asia Society Director of Cultural Programs and Performing Arts Rachel Cooper about his career and his cosmopolitan outlook on music — click here to watch the complete interview. Azhar's concert (a collaboration with New York City's annual River to River Festival) was part of Asia Society's ongoing initiative Creative Voices of Muslim Asia, made possible by support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.
Watch: Arieb Azhar and his band cover "Dama Dam Mast Qalandar" (6 min., 35 sec.)
As it happens, Azhar's "Dama Dam Mast Qalandar" comes on the heels of another veteran Pakistani performer's rendition of the same song in New York back in April — when Arif Lohar and his ensemble charged through it as part of a sold-out, two-night stand in Asia Society's auditorium.
Video: Excerpt from Arif Lohar's version of "Dama Dam Mast Qalandar" (2 min., 29 sec.)
Tell us what you think. Do you have a favorite version of "Dama Dam Mast Qalandar" that you want to recommend to Asia Blog readers? Feel free to share any suggestions in the comments field below.