Mystical Sounds of Islam: Voices of Qawwali

A unique performance of Muslim mystical music is coming to the Upstate on September 2 as part of a special concert and lecture series sponsored by the University of South Carolina Upstate, Wofford College, Furman University and SC Humanities. “Mystical Sounds of Islam: Voices of Qawwali,” showcases the internationally acclaimed ensemble Fanna-Fi-Allah at 7 PM on Wednesday, September 2, at the Humanities and Performing Arts Center on the USC Upstate campus. The event is open to the public and free of charge, though tickets must still be requested from the HPAC box office (864-503-5844). SC Humanities supported this project with a Mini Grant in July 2015.

Qawwali music is very popular among in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh,” explained Dr. David Damrel, Associate Professor of Religion at the University of South Carolina Upstate. “It is passionate devotional music, and is meant to reach listeners regardless of their spiritual background. This kind of rhythm-driven religious singing goes back over 500 years, but it is so accessible that it shows up in Bollywood soundtracks even today.”

Fanna-fi-Allah is a troupe of American and Pakistani artists with over 15 years of experience studying and performing in South Asia. They have served recently as cultural ambassadors on a State Department sponsored goodwill tour throughout Pakistan and are profiled in an upcoming feature film release on qawwali culture in the region. More about them is available at their website

“This is a great opportunity to experience a little bit of South Asian culture,” Damrel said. “As far as we know, this will be the first ever qawwali concert in South Carolina.”

The concert and lecture series also features two interpretative lectures intended to provide context for the performance. On Monday, August 24, Dr. Philip C. Dorroll, Assistant Professor of Religion at Wofford College will speak on ‘’Introducing Islamic Mysticism’’ from 4 to 5:30 PM in the Barrett Community Room of the Spartanburg County Public Library. On Wednesday, August 26 Dr. David Damrel will speak on “The Sounds of Islam” from 6 to 7:30 PM, also in the Barrett Community Room. The Spartanburg County Public Library is located at 151 South Church Street, Spartanburg, SC  29306 (864-596-3507).

For more information about the event and lectures please contact Dr. David Damrel ( at 864-503-5798.

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