spiritual and devotional path of Sufi music has enchanted humankind for centuries but nowadays the genre is hogged by people who don’t know or understand Sufism at all, says Piyarelal Wadali of the famed Wadali Brothers.
“The songs performed in films are not Sufi. Nobody sings Sufi music in films,” the veteran singer told IANS over phone from Mumbai to a query on what he thought of the Sufi music trend in Bollywood.
Lamenting the “herd mentality” prevailing in the music industry, he said: “Nowadays, people who don’t know or understand Sufi claim to be the purveyors of this music. Audiences also believe that. There are few people who understand and sing Sufi.”
The duo, who were in Mumbai to perform at Mirchi Live’s concert on Saturday, also participated at the first season of Coke Studio@MTV and did a re-interpretation of the song “Tu mane ya na mane”.
“We did a programme in ‘Coke Studio’ and played ‘Tu mane ya na mane’. It was not originally a Sufi song, but we made that rendition. The individual is considered as the Almighty in this song,” Piyarelal said.
The Wadali Brothers have lent their voices to films like “Pinjar” and “Dhoop” and one of their most popular songs was “Rangrez mere”, which was featured in the Kangana Ranaut -R. Madhavan-starrer “Tanu Weds Manu”. Piyarelal reveals it was recorded in a single night.
Hailing from Guru ki Wadali, a small village near Amritsar, the Wadali Brothers – Piyarelal and his elder brother Puranchand – are widely renowned as among the leading exponents of Sufi music in the world and have enthralled audiences in Dubai, the US, Australia, New Zealand and other places.
“We play our music according to what the audience likes. We observe and understand our audience and then mould our performance according to their liking,” Piyarelal said.
He termed Sufi music “a way to connect to one’s guru”.
“We consider guru as our god. Nobody has seen god, but he said that if you want to see me, then you should understand yourself. God exists within man,” Piyarelal said.
“A Sufi is a fakir (mendicant); he is a spiritual, honest being. The words written by the legends Bulle Shah, Amir Khusrau and the like are called Sufi. If I or someone else were to write it, we cannot call it Sufi,” he said.
Known for their soulful and passionate music and expressive singing, the Wadali Brothers believe in giving their own touch to the compositions provided to them by music directors, Piyarelal said.
“We take the composition and then we create the songs as per our liking. We make sure to keep our trademark style alive,” he added.
Recollecting their earlier days of struggle, Piyarelal said his career didn’t start as a singer but started as a dancer.
“I used to perform in Ras-Lilas. We used to travel to villages, and I danced for 20-25 years. Then my guru Mastan Shah asked me not to do that and devote my life to Sufi music. I obeyed him and left dancing,” he said.
Soon after this transition, the Wadali Brothers got their first recognition via All India Radio, Jalandhar, in 1972, said Piyarelal.
“Radio Jalandhar asked us to sing, and kept the microphone in front of us. Our elders said that you should not sing in front of the microphone because it sucks your voice in. But then we got to know that it wasn’t so and we went ahead. It was 1972,” he added.
The veteran singer, who started learning music as a child, confesses he is still in his learning phase.
“I was 5-6 years old when I started singing. I am 66 now. My elder brother is 76. Now when I finally started getting an understanding of music, age is not on my side,” he added.
Recognising the role of TV, radio and now the internet in promoting their music, Pirayelal said: “We respect radio and TV. Our music reached a global audience via those mediums. Internet has also played a big role. People who don’t know about us can now get all information there. We can help in spreading Sufi music via the internet.”