Sufi sounds on the ring road.
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C90 Qawwali: Emperor in Birmingham was the third of three Stan's Cafe micro-productions each made in five days and shown on consecutive Saturdays through November 2021. Each supported actors and an assistant director taking early steps in their devising practice.

This show's basis is a collaboration between Stan's Cafe and the artist Tas Bashir. Amongst his many pursuits Tas has been studying for a PhD in Music at the University of Birmingham. His academic topic and personal obsession is Qawwali, particularly the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his connection with Birmingham.

Tas told us how many Kashmiris of his father's generation emigrated when a vast dam flooded their land and how they ended up working in factories around Birmingham. He described their sense of displacement, persecution and the harsh living conditions they experienced while saving money to send home. He noted how their struggles meshed with the labour disputes of the late 70s and 80s and how into this dystopia Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan arrived as an extraordinary comforting voice from home.

The worker's unbridled enthusiasm for Nusrat's music at a series of concerts pushed the singer and his band to new heights and marked a defining moment in his career, launching him to global stardom and allowing him to record what many believe to be the definitive works of the Qawwali form.

Behind this unlikely musical story stands the charismatic impresario Mr. Ayub. Having built a business touted cassettes at factory gates, Mr. Ayub went on to open a record shop, broadcast on local radio and sign some of the world's greatest acts, including Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, to his OSA (Oriental Star Agencies) record label.

C90 Qawwali: Emperor In Birmingham tells all these stories alongside the life of a third generation Kashmiri lad, working in a fulfilment centre and cruising with his mates in a low slung car, chasing transcendence in the echo of Nusrat's performance, as it swirls around the ring road.

Devised and Performed by
Gerard Bell, Rupinder Kaur, Muhibb Nazir, Rachel Sambrooks & Dominic Thompson

Poem Nafeesa Hameed
Photographs in show Craig Stephens
Photographs of show Graeme Braidwood
Music Michael Valentine West
Lighting Mick Diver
Stage Management Emily Davies
Direction Tas Bashir, Nafeesa Hameed and James Yarker

With Thanks To
Murad Khan & Purbanat CIC
Lucy Bird, Roisin Caffrey, Dave Howard, Craig Stephens & Eliza Thompson
Kay Wilton & The REP
Gritty Theatre
Our Board & Scheming Friends
MECC Trust

Supported by
Arts Council England & SAMPAD
Constructed in Purbanat's Space, Golden Hillock Road, Small Heath, Birmingham

(c) Stan's Cafe 2021
Stan's Cafe Theatre: Company No. 3095751 | VAT No. 670 5071 49 | Reg Office: 20 Wheatsheaf Road, Birmingham, B16 0RY
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