10 Transmitting and Transforming Traditions: Salman Ahmad and Sufi Rock 259

in Sufism East and West
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Abstract

Historically, South Asia’s many literary traditions have provided both the structure and the idiom for Muslims across a broad spectrum of ideological persuasions to express and transmit their ideas. As is well known, Sufis affiliated with different tariqas have commonly employed genres of vernacular folk poetry as a means of elucidating and popularizing mystical ideas. Over the last century, thanks to a variety of intricately related set of factors such as the revolution in media technology, globalization and the spread of popular western culture and the rise of religiously based nationalisms, the form, content and context of South Asian Muslim devotional expressions have been radically transformed. This chapter explores the emergence of Sufi Rock, a new genre of Muslim devotional expression that has become increasingly popular in South Asia, particularly Pakistan. A genre which fuses western rock music with traditional Sufi poetry and imagery, Sufi Rock is commonly associated with one of its earliest exponents, Salman Ahmad, a guitarist and vocalist in one of South Asia’s biggest rock band, Junoon. The chapter explores Salman’s role in the emergence of Sufi Rock, specifically with reference to his professional development as a musician and spiritual development as a Muslim who deeply identifies with Sufism.

Sufism East and West

Mystical Islam and Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Modern World

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