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
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