The Veiled Singers

Women of the colony of qawwals. Photo: Janu Narayan

Women performing their evening chores in the colony of qawwals. Photo: Janu Narayan

“I used to sing before marriage. Now I have lost that dedication and discipline,” rues Nagma Khatoon. Nagma, a resident of the colony of qawwals on Delhi’s Panchkuian road is not a lone case. The colony comprises of an extended family of singers and music practitioners. The residents have been in the at for five generations now and some have even earned international repute as qawwals (a genre of music) or as playback singers in the film industry.

However, the participation of women in this family profession remains prohibited.

The women of the qawwal colony are as talented as their male folk. Although gifted by the same Muse of Music they are not allowed to showcase their art.

In a rare instance, Firoza Begum of the qawwal colony singes’t in full throated ease.

Life and Art of Qawwals

Qawwali is an Islamic form of praise for Allah and his prophet rendered through music. The tradition dates back to the 12th century and is predominant in India and Pakistan. One such colony of qawwals reside in Panchkuian road of New delhi. Lets take a glimpse of their lives and rediscover the qawwali tradition.