Our Artistic Director
With a harmonious blend of South Asian and the Western influences, Sonny K. Mehta leads the ensemble as the artistic director for Riyaaz Qawwali. A Qawwal with over 29 years of classical music training, he has spent half of that time devoted to understanding and growing awareness of qawwali (to learn more about this music form go to this page). His work has been supported by The City of Houston, the State of Texas, and major non-profits across the country.
With fluency in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and English, he can be a cultural ambassador for taking a secluded/folk art form and the associated poetry to Western audiences and the younger South Asian generations. South Asian art, and particularly performing arts require an audience to be fluent in many languages and cultural practices. Its precisely these hurdles that eroticize the art, even within diaspora. Sonny aims to overcome these barriers through his practice and performances.
His eastern musical influences include Ravi Shankar, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Wadali Brothers, Gurdas Maan, Sher Ali Mehr Ali, Jagjit Singh, Jasraj, Bhimsen Joshi and Abida Parveen. His favorite poets are Bulleh Shah, Baba Farid, Amir Khussrow, Saint Kabir, Mir Taqi Mir, Mirza Ghalib, Shiv Kumar Batalvi and Firaq Gorukhpuri. He is equally moved by western artists in diverse genres including blues, pop, rap, gospel, country and spoken word.
Across the last few years, Sonny has lead lectures and talks on the role art can play in better understanding the culture and people of South Asia. These sessions have been conducted at Universities (i.e. Harvard, Dartmouth, Univ of California, US Military Academy at West Point and Univ of Chicago), museums (i.e. The Getty Museum), schools (i.e. Richmond Elementary and Dallas High school) and major non-profits.