Esplanade Presents | A Tapestry of Sacred Music


Qawwali - Exaltation and Ecstasy

Nurulhuda Islamic Ensemble (Singapore)
20 – 22 Apr 2018 Fri – Sun
Fri: 8pm (30mins)
Sat: 9.15pm (45mins)
Sun: 7.45pm (45mins)
20 Apr 2018 : 8pm
21 Apr 2018 : 9.15pm
22 Apr 2018 : 7.45pm
Esplanade Outdoor Theatre


The history of maritime trade between the Arabs and Indians goes as far back as the seventh century, where Muslim traders would sail to India carrying fragrant spices, gold and other precious goods. Along with items of material value, the Arab voyagers also carried with them their spiritual beliefs to the southern shores of India, some settling down along the Malabar Coast, building some of the first mosques in the Indian subcontinent. The spread of Islam did not come to a halt there, but also filtered through to Southeast Asia.

The mass influx of migrants after Singapore in the 19th century marked the transference of South Indian Muslims to the island. Their culture and music co-existed and sometimes fused with those of other peoples in the region. They brought from India their own frame drums called daffs, and played them in unison to a common beat. At the same time, they encountered the kompang – Malay frame drums, played in a layered, interlocking rhythm. Over time, both instruments found their place in the celebrations of this migrant community.

In recent years, qawwali devotional songs from Pakistan and North India have become a popular musical influence to the descendants of the South Indian Muslim migrants. This enrapturing form popularised by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his contemporaries inspired others to incorporate the format to occasions of worship and celebration. However, where qawwali is typically sung in Urdu, the South Indian Muslim ensembles sing in their own vernacular. These varied influences created a unique genre of Islamic music that exists not only as an exaltation of the divine, but also a rich cultural expression born from the melting pot that is the Malay Peninsula.

Established in 1983 as a kompang group to serve the needs of the Indian Muslim community in Singapore, Nurulhuda Islamic Ensemble passes on the traditions of the frame drum, and provides a safe social environment for youth under the guidance of group mentor Mohamed Ali Jinnah. The ensemble has adopted the use of various instruments such as the dhol (barrel drum) and electronic harmonium, and has adapted the qawwali genre in their performances, creating unique renditions of Tamil Islamic music. Through their innovative approach and captivating sound, the group is highly sought-after within their community for weddings, social meetings and celebrations. The ensemble has received international recognition for their performances abroad, and has performed on local radio and in television productions.

Nurulhuda Islamic Ensemble is joined by special guests Habib Ansari, Mohamed Nazir and Gopalakrishna S/O Murugaya.

General Advisory

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