by Ayesha binte Rashid
“Many cry. Many go into a daze or become speechless,” says Rahat Fateh Ali Khan Sahab about the otherworldly state of being mast. It doesn’t always mean one goes into the trance of a dhamaal. “Their heart and soul are so profoundly touched that they don’t understand: if they are crying, why are they crying? If they are speechless, why are they speechless? If they are dancing, why are they dancing? They are in a trance.” A state in which they have forgotten the self and are lost in celebration of the Divine and His most devoted followers.
This is what Dam Mastam is: a selfless celebration of Maula Ali and his devout follower Shahbaz Qalandar, a saint from another era who was himself known for worshipping in a state of raqs. Composed in Raag Bhimpalasi, a passionate and tender raag, the song expresses adoration in its poetry, declaring Hazarat Ali (AS) to be the Lion of God and the King of the Brave as it opens. The devotee declares his loyalty to Shahbaz Qalandar: “Saiyan, when in need, I will ask only of you”.
is a song of total and complete resignation to one’s peer and murshid as Shahbaz Qalandar’s praises are supplemented with the
highest praises of Maula Ali, representing a bond that was formed through a
message of peace and love. “Taking Hazarat Ali (AS)’s name with Qaladar
Pak’s is sacred. When Qalandar Shehenshah traveled his message was always
‘Ali Haq! Ali Haq!’” Khan Sahab explains.
Written by Khan Sahab’s cousin, Javed Ali Khan, the poetry exhibits a core of love for God and unwavering faith, something he explains is essential. “The saints who passed before us, whose messages and poetry we still read today, possessed such purity of spirit that they were able to directly witness the Divine and write about it. We can only imagine it and express it in our words,” explains Javed.
This is a spiritual collaboration that has grown over a decade between Khan Sahab and Javed, and Dam Mastam is a fruit of their personal experience of divine inspiration, a process that becomes apparent during the rehearsal for the song. When they come into the studio to rehearse Dam Mastam, Javed is ready with his pen and paper, and Khan Sahab with his voice, its faultless sur and rhythm. As the first verse is rehearsed, Javed writes the second verse of the song. It takes Khan Sahab one take to fit into the song’s composition.
The performance is a unique experience each time - a life Khan Sahab is known to breathe into each moment. As the song reaches feverish crescendo, Khan Sahab launches into his signature improvised sargam. It is a world of its own for Khan Sahab.
“The qawwal, who is presenting a message, when he goes into that selfless state of Mast, he himself doesn’t understand where he is singing and what exquisite sur are being transmitted through him.” Khan Sahab tells.
For Khan Sahab, making his music relevant is a responsibility that comes with being a qawwal. It is tied with the true purpose of qawwali - to spread a message of brotherhood, love and peace, across time and culture. Through this, a connection to the Source is unleashed. And if lucky, Khan Sahab tells, for a moment, one has forgotten the self, in celebration of the Divine.