Qawwali (Urdu/Persian/Pashto/Sindhi/Seraiki: قوٌالی; Punjabi/Multani: قوٌالی; Brajbhasha/Hindi) is a form of Sufi devotional music popular in South Asia, particularly in areas with a historically strong Muslim presence, such as southern Pakistan, and parts of North India. The style is rare, though not entirely absent, in North and West Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Kashmir. It’s a vibrant musical tradition that stretches back more than 700 years. Often listeners, and even artists themselves, are transported to a state of wajad, a trance-like state where they feel at one with God, generally considered to be the height of spiritual ecstasy in Sufism, and the ultimate goal of the practice.

Originally performed mainly at Sufi shrines or dargahs throughout the subcontinent, it has also gained mainstream popularity. Qawwali music received international exposure through the work of the late Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, largely due to several releases on the Real World label, followed by live appearances at WOMAD festivals. Other famous Qawwali singers include Pakistan’s Sabri Brothers.

Although famous throughout the world, its economic and spiritual hub remains the Punjab province of Pakistan from where it gained entry into the mainstream commercial music industry and international fame.