Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Abida Parween (singer) Songs of the Mystics:
Ghazals, Kaafi etc.
Navras NRCD 5505/6 123'35"
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This renowned singer who lives in Pakistan appeared recently at the RFH in London, a less than happy event, reported in S&H, June 2000. It therefore gives great pleasure to be able to recommend warmly a double CD which has reached me, of her live performances in June 1989, newly released by Navras in May 2000. This includes five ghazals and five kaafis, with folk songs and a traditional thumri. The expert support, which contributes to the vitality and excitement, is on drums (tabla & dholak) and harmoniam.

Abida Parween has a vigorous, intense, and committed style of delivery, which is very winning. For untutored Western listeners, the presentation will be found to be far better than for many earlier Navras CDs. Shahrukh Hussain, with assistance from Prof. Christopher Shackle, explains the passion for esoteric, ornate poetry in the South Asian subcontinent. The ghazals originated in Arab speaking countries and were appropriated by the Sufis. Love poems were transformed into allegories of the mystic quest, the beloved becoming often a mystic guide or God himself. Concert tours by important Pakistani singers, Abida Parween one of the foremost amongst them, have become a feature of cultural globalization, drawing huge audiences from both the diaspora and host communities in the western world. She was chosen to carry her eminent father's mantle when only 5 and she is said, here, 'to float her mastery of classical form gently and sparingly' into her performances.

Especially helpful is the description of the 'sometimes strange melange of musical and literary forms', with interpolations, sometimes of verses by one mystic into the main body of the performance of another's, this being consistent with Sufism's challenge of established order.

It is claimed, not without justification, that Abida Parween gives the verses meaning which transcends words. However, this rather literal-minded reviewer finds the provision here of the complete texts, transliterated and translated into English, enormously helpful, in contrast with the recent 'live' concert experience, with no guidance for English speakers, and over-amplified and distorted sound which disguised the beauty of her singing.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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