Riyaaz Qawwali in concert: ‘Qawwali e Nau: Amrita Pritam and Parveen Shakir’


Saturday, November 12, 2022
7 p.m. Concert

In this concert, masterpieces of modern poets Parveen Shakir and Amrita Pritam will be sung for the first time in the radiant tradition of Qawwali music. The nationally acclaimed (and Houston-based) band Riyaz Qawwali will celebrate these major figures of Urdu and Punjabi literature with a performance of original compositions conceptualized by Riyaaz Qawwali Founder and Artistic Director, Sonny K. Mehta, and commissioned by Asia Society Texas. Reception to follow.

This program is presented as part of the Asia Society Texas Muslim Series.

About Riyaaz Qawwali

Riyaz Qawwali has been performing the captivating musical style of qawwali for over 16 years. The musicians, all based in Houston, have Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese and Bangladeshi roots and are of diverse religious origins. Trained in Eastern and Western classical music, they have released two albums and over 30 singles. With an increased attention to quality, their work respectfully advances the 700-year-old tradition of qawwali, and since their first release, Riyaaz Qawwali has experienced new poets singing in this form. Riyaaz Qawwali’s mission is to expose qawwali to new audiences by expanding the reach of the genre to new platforms and people of all faiths. To do this, they perform in universities (Princeton, Dartmouth, Harvard), museums (the J. Paul Getty Museum) and festivals in front of large audiences. The founding members of Riyaaz Qawwali chose the Qawwali genre of music because it harbors unique musical elements in its repertoire not found in any other form of South Asian music. They were featured in major outlets including NPR and the Huffington Post. Riyaaz Qawwali founder Sonny K. Mehta leads the ensemble as artistic director.

About the poets

Born in 1919, Amrita Pritam was an Indian novelist, essayist and poet, who wrote in Punjabi and Hindi. A prominent figure in Punjabi literature, she was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award in 1956. Her oeuvre includes over 100 books of poetry, fiction, biographies, essays, a collection of Punjabi folk songs and an autobiography all of which have been translated in several Indian and foreign languages. Pritam is best known for her poem Ajj aakhaan Waris Shah naked, expression of the anguish of the massacres during the partition of India. As a novelist, her most noted work is Pinjar (The Skeleton, 1950), in which she addresses violence against women, the loss of humanity and the ultimate surrender to existential destiny.

Parveen Shakir is considered one of the great Urdu poets. She was born in Karachi, Pakistan on November 24, 1952 and began writing prose and poetry at an early age, contributing to newspaper columns and articles in English dailies. Shakir has published five books of poetry with great success, Khushbu (Fragrance, 1976), followed by barg sad (Marigold, 1980), Khoud Kalami (Soliloquy), Inkar (Denial, 1990), and Kaf e Aina (The Mirror’s Edge), as well as a collection of his newspaper columns entitled Gosha and Chashm (The corner of the view).

About Muslim Series

Through a multidisciplinary approach that utilizes Asia Society’s breadth of programming possibilities, this series explores the artistic talents and stories of American Muslims to inspire our community to better understand each other. For more information on sponsorship of the Muslim Series and other programs like it, please contact Jenni Rebecca Stephenson, Director of Development, at [email protected] or 713.496.9909.

Series Sponsors

Eddie Allen and Chinhui Juhn
Shaista Khan and Shahzad Bashir
Tariq and Dr. Uzma Iqbal
Sania and Hyder Kazimi
Drs. Saleha and Basheer Khumawala
Drs. Monira and Azam Kundi
Shazma and Arshad Morning
Cartha and Nameer Siddiqui | Goldman Sachs
Selma and Mustafa Tameez

The Asia Society Texas performing arts and culture programs are presented by Syamal and Susmita Poddar. Major support comes from Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Houston Endowment and The Brown Foundation Inc. Generous funding also provided by AARP, The Anchorage Foundation of Texas , The Clayton Fund, The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts and The Wortham Foundation. Additional support provided by the Texas Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, United Airlines, and through contributions from the Friends of Asia Society, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations committed to providing exceptional programming and exhibitions at Asia Society Texas.

Performing Arts and Culture Presenting Sponsors

Syamal and Susmita Poddar

Official Airline Sponsor

Performing Arts and Culture Program Sponsors

About Asia Society Texas

Asia Society Texas believes in the strength and beauty of diversity of perspectives and people. As an educational institution, we advance cultural exchange by celebrating Asia’s vibrant diversity, inspiring empathy, and fostering a deeper understanding of our interconnected world. Covering the fields of arts, business, culture, education and politics, our programming is rooted in the educational and cultural development of our community – trusting in the power of art, dialogue and ideas to fight prejudice and build a more inclusive society.

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