Interview of Abida Parveen: The Great Singer of Sufi Poetry



Excerpts from:
'The I Doesn't Matter'
By Farahnaz Zahidi, Express Tribune, January 13, 2013

I am waiting to meet Abida Parveen. More than 100 interviews in my portfolio as a journalist, and I am as nervous as a rookie as I sit in the ‘Abida Parveen Gallery’ in F-10, Islamabad, waiting to be taken to her adjoining house. I’m nervous because of the power of this performer and of the words that seem to speak themselves through her. The walls of the gallery, replete with pictures and awards, pay homage to Abida’s journey. She is seen performing in the grandest of places, standing next to the biggest names in the music industry. In one picture, she is smiling along with heads of state. In another, she is receiving one of countless awards. But the ones I like best are those of Abida alone, lost in another realm, her face displaying both peace and a fiery passion with no contradiction whatsoever between such opposing emotions.
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Her journey began almost six decades ago. Born in mohalla Ali Goharabad in Larkana, Sindh, Abida’s learning began at home with her father Ustad Ghulam Haidar, whom she proudly calls a “gawayya.
“All this is a gift from my father,” she says. “It is because of his barkat (blessing). But he never had to force me to sing. I was drawn to this myself. From the age of three, my earliest memories are that I would sit with the harmonium. I felt a pull towards music and Sufi poetry. I always felt an inner happiness when I would hear the Abyaat of Bhittai. I always felt attracted to dargaahs (shrines). Mujhe un se jor diya Maula ne. I think this connection is formed before one is even born”....
She then moves on to talk about the inner ‘spark’ within us, that eternal fragment of the divine. I find myself listening intently, my notebook forgotten....
“All humans have this spark. God has kept it in us. Once we come into this world, with this inherent spark in us for the love of the Divine, it tugs at our heart strings intermittently. This is a gift. It is in all of us. All Prophets and spiritual masters do is stoke this fire if it starts to die out. Visiting shrines or staying in the company of the pious or reading this poetry — it transforms the spark into a full-fledged fire. Once that fire catches on, then…” she chuckles knowingly, a glow on her face, and that uncontrollable signature mop of hair framing her face. The laughter has a child-like innocence and spontaneity. I’m wondering how she can talk about such deeply philosophical and heavy concepts with such ease.
In an era where it is fashionable to label oneself as “spiritual, not religious,” where Rumi is quoted out of context and the couplets of Bulleh Shah are memorized with little understanding of their meaning, here is a true spiritual being. Meeting her, I realize that true sufis don’t need to flaunt their spirituality.....
They don’t need Facebook groups, twitter hash tags or a plethora of interviews to announce their spiritual quest. They are who they are. The aura of peace that emanates from them is the only identification they need.  If I were to praise her with all the qualities I see, it would only embarrass her.....
And it is fitting, as the most basic tenet of Sufism is humility. Not the false humility that is pride in disguise, but the true loss of self. Abida, it is clear, is the real deal. How does she manage it? I ask. How does she keep the fame from going to her head? She starts shaking her head as I ask and replies, “I am so scared. May Maula keep me humble”....
Enviously, I ask her how one develops this spirituality. As expected, she takes no credit at all. “I do not deserve it. Besabab karam hai (it’s an unmerited mercy upon me). Mujh mein mera kuch naheen, jo kuch hai so tera. Tera tujh ko sonp dein, kya laagay hai mera. It is a bestowed blessing. You cannot work hard at it. Mehnat riyazat se naheen milta (you don’t get it by striving for it)”....
The conversation moves towards music. “I am still very nervous before a performance. I plan out in detail what I have to sing. Every time, it feels like it is the very first performance. I keep learning and practicing my music. Perfection is only for Allah. Ye insaan ka na-mukammal hona…yeh silsila bara acha hai,” (this state of human incompleteness is beautiful) she says with a smile....
Abida is no puritan and does not believe in boundaries in her music, so long as the basic etiquette of rendering mystic poetry is kept in mind. “I have tried my hand at fusion music, like in my CD Raqs e bismal.
But when singing sufi poetry, one has to bear in mind that the musical instruments or even the voice needs to be submissive to the kalaam; the message in the words of Sufi poetry must remain intact. Maintaining that balance is tough; music should just support the kalaam, and not by-pass it or take over, otherwise the message gets diluted. This is jalaali kalaam(powerful narrative) and a certain adab (respect) is required.....
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We talk about the poets she admires and understands. She tells me that her upcoming projects include the Persian works of Shams of Tabriz among others. Abida has an interesting take on Iqbal’s philosophy of Khudi and interprets Khudi as not the “self” but as the zameer(conscience), calling it “the voice inside that tells us when we go wrong”. Speaking of Iqbal, she quotes his famous verse which emphasises love for the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):Quwwat e ishq se har past ko baala kar dey …. Dehr mein ism e Muhammad se ujala kar de.
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I have always wondered how she seems to become another person when she sings. It is as if she is in a trance and the words simply speak themselves through her. “Because I do not perform for people. I perform for Him. In that moment, it is Maula who connects me to the audience and to myself. Woh zaat nazar naheen aati magar karti sub kuch wohi hai. Whose eyes and hands are actually at work? Banda aur Khuda — they are never apart. My prayer is for myself is that Maula zaat mein zaat mila de. A relationship based on love between the Creator and Creation. You will find Allah as you perceive Him,” she says.
Living in this world whilst simultaneously existing in a higher spiritual plane, Abida has also led a very normal life as a mother of two daughters and a son. I ask her what she feels about the ascetic principle of renouncing this world and everything in it. After all, some do believe that spiritual growth is only possible when the one leaves the world and its trappings behind. “This earth …. we cannot renounce it! It is so precious. This is where Muhammad (pbuh) placed his forehead in sajda,” she says. Nothing more remains to be said.
For complete article, click here
Related:
India honours Abida Parveen with life time achievement award - Dawn
Lighting the lamp within - The Hindu

Comments

Waqar Ahmad said…
good post you are really Pakistani friend thanks dear admin

Pkistani newspapers
Arslan Rana said…
She is a great Singer and brave woman, i like your article carry on.
​Pakistani People​

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