Abida Parveen at the Alchemy Festival: Music to make the soul dance
28 May 2017

Abida Parveen-Southbank

Loved, revered, treasured – Abida Parveen is a Sufi singer whose uniquely devotional music has gained her saint/ rockstar/ icon-type status in South Asia and across the world. And after too long an absence, she’s coming to London next year to perform the finale of the Southbank Centre’s Alchemy Festival.

Her exquisite repertoire of ghazals and kafis, and ability to herself reach, and transport her audiences to raptures of ecstasy has enabled her to transcend language, cultural and geographical lines. Her songs are rooted in Sufi poetry – Sufiana kalaam – and celebrate the greatness of God, the quest for oneness with Him, and the tribulations and exaltations of the spiritual path.

Her powerful, resonant voice which can go from seductive intimacy to thunderous exclamation is a thing of wonder when in full, artistic flow. Here she is singing Baba Bulleh Shah’s masterpiece Tere Ishq Nachaya.

She is extraordinary in so many ways – not least as one of the few leading female devotional singers in Pakistan who spent years singing at Sufi shrines and dargahs honing her voice and art. She famously told the Guardian “The concept of being a man or a woman doesn’t cross my mind. I’m neither on stage, I’m a vehicle on stage for passion“. That full article is here.

How can one talk of Abida Parveen without mention of 14th century Sufi poet Amir Khusrau and his classic Chaap Tilak? Here’s a performance from 2012.

Tere ishq ne dera mere andar keeta,
Bhar zehar pyala,main aap hi peeta.
Tere ishq nachaya, karke thaiyya thaiyya,
Jaldi aaja ve tabiba, nahi te main mar gaiyyaan.

Falling in love with you, 
Was like taking a sip of poison.
Come, my healer, forsaken I am sad,
Your love has made me dance like mad.

More recently, she has experimented with a different sensibility through a series of collaborations with Coke Studio. Predictably, these have had a mixed reception, but to us they are all high-quality examples of Abida Parveen’s status and responsibility as one of the foremost exponents of Pakistan’s Sufi folk and classical tradition in the modern age. There’s a rendition of Chaap Tilak with qawwali superstar Rahat Fateh ali Khan, Aaqa, a duet with Pakistan’s new ghazal sensation Ali Sethi, and our favourite – her solo Maula-e-Kull, from the most recent ninth season.

We’re massively looking forward to a concert which celebrates a career that has spanned decades, and also a woman whose reach into the hearts and souls of her audience is unsurpassed. It’s been such a long time coming – this London date – and it’s going to be sublime.

It’s a real shame that most of the tickets are so eye-wateringly expensive – we’ve given you lots of notice so you’ll have to start saving! There are very few £10 tickets left (there were very few to begin with) so you’ll need to get on those asap.


When: Sunday 28 May 2017, 7.30pm

Where: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX

Tickets: £10 – £120 (+ £1.75 booking fee)

More info and to book: Southbank Centre


By Seema Khan.

Photos courtesy of Southbank Centre

Posted on 26 December 2016

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