Watch Sonam Kalra & the Sufi Gospel Project Voice Faith in ‘Alfat’
The collective adapted a 17th century Sufi poet’s verse for the folk/Sufi track
The sun ripples over leaves in a garden, a squirrel nibbles on food, incense wafts from freshly lit agarbattis and flowers bask in golden daylight as members of the New Delhi-based folk/Sufi outfit Sonam Kalra & the Sufi Gospel Project practice their routines of faith. In their single “Alfat,” the collective adapts Ek Nukta Yaar Parhaya Ae, a kalaam (poem) by 17th century Sufi poet Baba Bulleh Shah. Vocalist Sonam Kalra bows to the Granth, keyboardist Alex Fernandes reads the Bible, flutist Rohit Prasanna receives prasad from an elder, sarangi player Ahsan Ali performs namaz and percussionist Tarit Pal rings the bell at the temple. They all take different paths to reach the studio.
“The song celebrates a very simple truth,” says Kalra, “That your temple, your shrine, your church and your mosque are not within the four walls of a building, but within the walls of your heart and the walls of the heart of the person next to you. And love is the greatest religion of them all.”
Sonam Kalra & the Sufi Gospel Project first composed “Alfat” three years ago when they were invited to perform at world/Sufi music festival Jahan-e-Khusrau in New Delhi, taking to stage where legends like Abida Parveen had performed before. Time passed and the scale of the song changed from minor to major, they weaved in a refrain in the Persian language (“Dar man ast hu Allah”), even experimenting with the bansuri and sarangi to make the instruments sound like the Irish flute and fiddle. A layer of Iranian and Indian percussions found themselves mixed into the sonic dye and folk took on a contemporary sound with the Sufi kalaam retaining its essence.
“The refrain of the poem has a wonderfully rhythmic quality to it and is very catchy, so it lent itself to an uptempo beat,” shares Kalra, who wanted to present the Sufi kalaam in a not so traditional manner. They wanted the end result to be celebratory — of love and equality.
Abiding with the collective’s ethos, “Alfat” blends the voices of faith. Sonam Kalra & the Sufi Gospel Project experiment with melody in the song and the instrumentation changes after almost every verse. Kalra’s powerhouse vocals lend a palpable energy to the track as the mellifluous flute riff surges and dissipates. The upbeat banjo beautifully complements the airy flute and Amaan Ali’s rhythmic tabla and the boomy drums form a spirited footing for it all. The sarangi is sparkling, evoking emotion and Kalra introduces the unexpected with the morsing. The song ends on the echo of “Allah” and the message is clear: God has no religion; loving him means loving humanity, all of it.
“For me, the words of ‘Alfat’ needed to be shared with the world because the message is so relevant, important and one that needs to be heard, especially in the context of the current global socio-political environment,” says Kalra. It’s something we can all remember: each truth is just as valid.
Watch the music video for “Alfat” below: