UHV to host South Asian musical performance, dinner event

The University of Houston-Victoria International Programs Office is partnering with a Victoria internist and Marble Slab Creamery to host a dinner and South Asian music performance by a group that has performed at the White House and been featured on National Public Radio and in the Huffington Post.

Riyaaz Qawwali, a Houston-based musical ensemble, will perform at 6 p.m. Aug. 18 in the UHV University North Walker Auditorium, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St. Following the performance, there will be a meal of Indian cuisine in the University North Multi-Purpose Room. Tickets to the event cost $25. The event is sponsored by Dr. Sanjeev Bhatia and his wife Vandana R. Bhatia, and Alok and Renu Katarya from Marble Slab Creamery. Proceeds from the performance will be used to host future international events for the community.

Ludmi Herath

“Victoria has an amazingly diverse population, and many of those individuals participate in UHV’s annual International Festival,” said Ludmi Herath, UHV international programs director. “We’re excited to host this amazing group in Victoria and give community members the opportunity to experience a performance they normally would have to drive to Houston to enjoy.”

Qawwali is part of a 700-year-old musical tradition that spans regions of the Indian subcontinent and South Asia. The music is a fusion of Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Indian traditional styles. The songs typically are spiritual in nature and are sung in Persian, Urdu, Hindi, Bengali and Punjabi.

An ensemble of Qawwali musicians typically consists of eight or nine men who perform sitting cross-legged in two rows on the ground. The group usually includes one or two percussionists, one or two harmonium players, a lead singer, one or two side singers, and a chorus of four or five men who repeat key phrases and clap their hands to the music.

Sanjeev Bhatia

“This music has a deep spiritual meaning, and hearing the crescendo of voices is very exciting,” said Dr. Bhatia, who practices internal medicine at Crossroads Health Center in Victoria. “These musicians use only traditional instruments – nothing electronic – and the songs span so many cultures. It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to experience something new and learn about a different culture.”

The Riyaaz Qawwali ensemble is made up of seven men who hail from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The members are trained in Eastern and Western classical music styles and have performed together for more than a decade. They are based in Houston, but the party has performed across the continental U.S. and recently performed in Europe. Their songs often include poetry written by famous South Asian poets from various religious and cultural backgrounds.

“Riyaaz Qawwali works to emphasize the importance of oneness and unity through its performance,” Dr. Bhatia said. “The beauty of music is that anyone can enjoy it without having to know the language.”

Tickets for the event can be purchased through UHVConnect at or at Crossroads Health Center, 4504 N. Laurent St. Free childcare is available for children ages 5 to 18. For more information, contact the UHV International Programs Office at 361-570-4106 or

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.