Astro Awani, Pakistani folklore Sufi singer wants to bring Indians and Pakistani closer

Astro Awani, Pakistani folklore Sufi singer wants to bring Indians and Pakistani closer

Apr 18, 2017

NEW YORK: Pakistani folklore Sufi singer Sanam Marvi enthralled audiences in New York with her singing at the Asia Society in New York.

In an interview with Bernama shortly before her performance recently, she provided insights into her music and her interpretations of Sufism through her singing in Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi and Saraiki.

She explained how she is able to transcend the ordinary and draw in listeners from outside her own cultural world of South Asian Sufism.

The 31 year-old Marvi, who has been performing at several venues around the world, said that her main concern was music and she considered herself as a voice for the Sufi tradition.


She has been singing since she was seven; she has performed at the Coke Studio in Pakistan, and has been giving concerts in Europe, India, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Australia, Morocco, etc.

"This is, in fact, the third time that I am performing in the United States," she exclaimed.

"My goal is to spread the message of Islam and truth," says Marvi whose voice, as was evident from the enraptured and attentively listening audience at the Asia Society, was power-packed with strong emotional appeal.


She was accompanied by her group - Kashif Ali on the tabla (drums), Imran Ali playing the harmonium, Shahid Ali on the sitar, Noor Bux on the dholak (cylindrical drum) and another singer-cum-musician Arieb Azhar.

Sufism is often described as the mystical side of Islam but as Arieb Azhar explained, Sufis believe that Sufism expresses the essence of all religions reaching out for a direct connection with the divine and serving all humanity.


Pakistan has a long tradition of Sufi poet-saints, many of whom Marvi has honoured in her singing performance.

Sufism, she said, was practised in Pakistan, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and several countries of Asia and is known in various forms; in India and

Pakistan, the common order of Sufism is called Chishti. Moinuddin Chishti introduced the Chishti order in Lahore (Pakistan) and Ajmer (India) sometime in the middle of the 12th century.

The Qawwali singing, accompanied by clapping is a form of Sufi devotional music in South Asia and is popular in Punjab and Sindh in Pakistan, many parts of India, including Hyderabad and Delhi, and also in Bangladesh.

"It is part of a musical tradition that can be traced back to more than 700 years," Marvi said.


Sanam Marvi and her ensemble are on a U.S. tour as part of the Center Stage Programme, a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State''s

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, and supported by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

The Center Stage Pakistan was made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, and the Henry Luce Foundation.

Marvi''s popularity has risen with her vocal appearances in Bollywood films such as London Paris New York and The Dirty Picture.

Sufi music seems to be entering the mainstream today and the reason for that, Marvi explains, are initiatives such as the popular classical music show

"Virsa Heritage Revived" broadcast on Pakistan''s TV and "Coke Studio" which have spread awareness and sparked an interest among the public for Sufi music.

She said that she greatly admired the host of the "Virsa Heritage" show, the renowned cultural icon from Lahore, Mian Yousuf Salahuddin who is a father figure to her.

"I think the most important thing is spreading the Sufi kalam," says Marvi, explaining that her father, a Sufi singer, gave her the early training and encouragement in Sufi singing.

She points out that her music has become immensely popular in India.

Asked if her message of love, tolerance and peace could help bring closer India and Pakistan, locked in rivalry since gaining independence from British colonialism nearly 70 years ago, she says: "My singing conveys the message of peace, love and tolerance.

I hope that my music will contribute to peace between India and Pakistan.

We belong to the same culture, after all, and it is only natural that both embrace each other in peace and tolerance.

I do pray that both countries find a way to coexist in peace and harmony," she concludes optimistically.