Sufi singer Ashraf Hydroz, who performed recently at the Kochi Muziris Biennale, talks about the art form
Interestingly, the majority of the songs that Ashraf sings have been composed by Amir Khusrow (1253-1325), who is regarded as the father of the 'Qawwali'. “He has composed thousands of spiritual songs in Urdu, Brajabasha, Poorvi and Farsi,” says Ashraf. The singer also sings the romantic songs of the musical genius. “In one song Khusrow had said, 'At the sight of the beloved, I lose all my control, because of my love for her’.”
Ashraf also sings songs of other religions. During a performance at the Ernakulam Karayogam, in 2015, he sang Hindu shlokas and Vedic chants. “The audience was very surprised,” says Ashraf, who is a senior disciple of renowned Hindustani musician Ustad Faiyaz Khan. “They were expecting only Sufi songs. I believe that the songs, of every religion lead one to the same Universal Energy and Love.”
Meanwhile, Ashraf's interest in Sufi music was sparked, when, as a M. Phil student of music at Delhi University, in 1988, he went for a Qawwali concert of the famous Sabri Brothers of Pakistan, along with Indian singer Ustad Jaffar Hussain Khan. The brothers were the first to use the word, 'Allah' repeatedly during their songs. “They gave a wonderful performance,” says Ashraf. “It was then that I decided to become a Sufi singer.”
Whenever he had leisure time, Ashraf would spend time at the holy shrines of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer, the dargah of Hazrath Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi, the Salim Chisti Tomb at Fathepur Sikri and the Makhdum Ali Mahimi shrine in Mahim, Mumbai.