Co-presented with the Cathedral of St. John the Divine


Riyaaz Qawwali




Saturday, January 19, 2019

Doors: 6:30 pm | Show: 7:30 pm


Cathedral of St. John the Divine

1047 Amsterdam Ave, Manhattan




Unreserved seating


Riyaaz Qawwali represents the unique diversity and plurality of South Asia. The ensemble’s musicians, who are settled in the U.S., hail from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh and sing devotional music. While they are ethnically diverse, they also represent multiple spiritual backgrounds, which they incorporate into their music. Trained in both Eastern and Western classical music, the musicians have been professionally performing qawwali for the past ten years. With conservative growth and heightened attention to quality, Riyaaz Qawwali has now released two albums and been featured on NPR and Huffington Post.


Riyaaz Qawwali’s mission is to expose new audiences to qawwali, while still paying homage to the tradition that has existed for 700+ years. The ensemble wants to expand the reach of the genre to new stages and people of other faiths and traditions. The founding members of Riyaaz Qawwali chose the qawwali genre of music because it is home to unique musical elements not found in any other form of South Asian music. Riyaaz Qawwali combines this with poetry from famous South Asian poets of multiple linguistic and religious backgrounds to create a universal message of oneness (Riyaaz Qawwali incorporates works from poetic giants like Mirza Ghalib, Amir Khusrow, Bulleh Shah, Mir Taqi Mir, Sant Kabir and Guru Nanak, and in doing so, hopes to expose these poets’ works to new audiences and younger generations). Riyaaz Qawwali also uses numerous languages including Urdu, Punjabi, Persian, Gujarati, and Hindi to represent the linguistic and cultural diversity that exists in South Asia.




The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. It is chartered as a house of prayer for all people and a unifying center of intellectual light and leadership. People from many faiths and communities worship together in services held more than 30 times a week; the soup kitchen serves roughly 25,000 meals annually; social service outreach has an increasingly varied roster of programs; the distinguished Cathedral School prepares young students to be future leaders; Adults and Children in Trust — the renowned pre-school, after-school, and summer program — offers diverse educational and nurturing experiences; the outstanding Textile Conservation Lab preserves world treasures; concerts, exhibitions, performances, and civic gatherings allow conversation, celebration, reflection, and remembrance — such is the joyfully busy life of this beloved and venerated Cathedral. Learn more at stjohndivine.org.


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Qawwali is a venerable yet refreshing musical tradition that dates back to the late 13th century. The word qaul refers to an "utterance (of the prophet)" and the first Qawwals (qawwali artists) repeated these qauls by making them the subject matter of their qawwalis.

Famous among such artists was a man named Amir Khusro. More than 700 years since Amir Khusro composed the famous qaul ‘Man Kunto Maula’, Riyaaz Qawwali envisions modernizing the genre for today's audience, while staying true to the ethos of qawwali.

In this regard Riyaaz idolizes Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan who took semi-classical qawwali to new heights of popularity in both the Hindustani Shastriya Sangeet as well as the World Music circles through the 1980s and the 1990s. Riyaaz Qawwali hopes to take this niche tradition of Sufiana Kalaam and expand its reaches by introducing newer poets to traditional compositions and modernizing the sound while keeping authentic elements, all in efforts to reach new audiences.