American Sufi Qawali Group, Fanna-Fi-Allah

Your first impression of Fana-Fi-Allah [A sufi term, meaning Annihilation in God] will be some young American dudes from California, with some serious dreadlocks, playing Sufi Qawali music instead of Roots Reggae?! But don't let the looks deceive you, since Fanna-Fi-Allah are a very talented group of musicians who perform Sufi Qawali music to the words of Rumi, as well as the great Persian sufis of India, Baba Farid and Mouinudin Chisti.

"Fanna Fi Allah’s leader, 28-year-old Tahir Qawwali, (born Geoffrey Lyons), began exploring Eastern music as a teenager, influenced by the Beatles’ use of Indian instruments. “A lot of (young) people look to alternatives,” he explains. “I really got into the Upanishads and studied Sanskrit and traditional classical Hindustani music.” At the age of 16 after studying tabla for two years, Tahir took himself off to India to apprentice as a student of voice and theory with his first musical guru, Pundit Pashupati Nath Mishra. While there, he also taught himself Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu. Eventually he moved to Pakistan to become a student of Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan [nephew of the world’s most famous Qawwali singer, the late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan] and Muazzam Ali Khan.

Amina Chisti, the female tabla player for Fanna Fi Allah, received formal initiation and training in Pakistan from the legendary Ustad Dildar Hussein Khan, who for 28 years was the tabla player for Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. As the first woman in this genre of music her tabla playing is creating history in the Islamic world. “They don’t take every student - she got accepted and became very close to the [Rahat] Khan family,” Tahir says “Since then, for three months every year she’s been taken into their home where she lives and studies every day. They built a room for her in their house..”

Fanna Fi Allah made history in 2007 when Amina, the female Tabla player, received permission to participate in one of the largest annual Pakistani music festivals, commemorating the death of Sufi saint Data Hajveri [Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh]. It was the first time in 670 years that a woman was permitted to perform inside an Islamic Shrine.In the following video, the showering of money, as a sign of approval, appreciation, and acceptance of their talents by the locals, is quite impressive and ironic. Ironic in the sense that wealth and Sufis are the two opposite poles!

Fana Fi Allah Live in Concert- Ya Mustafa

Watch Fanna Fi Allah and her historic performance inside a Sufi Shrine
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