Abida Parveen

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Abida Parveen is a phenomenon, the most celebrated living legend in Pakistan today. One of the few female Sufi singers in Pakistan, she’s also one of the best and most popular artists in this male dominated genre. Using her inspirational vocals alone with a minimum of accompaniment she electrifies her audiences. Parveen specialises in ghazals and khafis, two distinct forms of classic Sufi poetry, which she sets to music herself. With her passionate songs she conveys the message of love and tolerance which is at the centre of Sufism, a widespread, mystical branch of Islam. ‘The Sufi,’ she says, ‘speaks through the heart. Even if an audience cannot understand the words, their spirits will be lifted to a higher plane.’
Programme Icoon


Born in Larkana in 1954, Abida Parveen grew up in a family in which the Muslim Sufi culture took a central place. Although a musical career for women is rarely approved of in Muslim communities, her father recognised her special talent and encouraged her to sing. Abida Parveen took music lessons at her father's music school and with Ustad Salamat Ali Khan. At various religious festivals, she came into contact with the musical tradition of the Sufi's, who worship the divine through their music.

Marrying Ghulam Hussain Sheikh, a producer at Radio Pakistan, gave her the opportunity to further develop her career as a singer. Parveen has made more than one hundred recordings, but to see her perform is something else. As a member of the audience at a concert in Lahore said: 'The power was like at a heavy metal concert, but it was only Abida with some percussionists and a harmonium.' A woman in a man's world, Parveen is very successful, reaching stellar status on Indian television. Drawing her material from old Sufi poems which she sets to music herself, she performs worldwide at concert venues as well as holy places. 'Music transcends the barriers of language, culture and religion,' Parveen explains. 'Even if an Englishman who does not understand the words, listens to Sufi music, it will take him to higher spheres. There is a message in the music, the Sufi message of love.'


Abida Parveen
performed by
Abida Parveen, vocals
Meher Ali, tabla
Manzoor Hussain, harmonium
Karam Hussain, dholak
Waris Ali, tabla, percussion
Muhammad Akmal, flute
Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop

‘She is an incredible Sufi singer with a gorgeous voice.’


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