Abida Parveen Live at NCPA 12 03 2005

So I figure that Nusrat was truly a God, because Abida - who is clearly the second most famous sufi singer alive today - doesn’t even manage to come close.

Having said that, let me also say that I probably entered the concert with certain misconceptions abour what I was going to see. I remembered Nusrat’s singing as having a strong classical base and an ample amount of improvisation, and so I figured Abida would be more of the same. However, although she has a phenomenal voice and she sings with passion, her entire performance was far more folky than I had anticipated. Once I’d internalised this fact, the concert went much better from there on. Abida and her band were musically monotonous, so much so that even her acclaimed voice couldn’t lift the performance to any sort of greatness.

It took me the whole of the first set to recognise the modalities of the concert. Like a blues song, Abida would pick her couplets at whim, sing them and then come back to the refrain over and over, almost trance like. The lyrics that I understood were phenomenal, and so once I’d settled back to think of it as a poetry recital rather than a musical concert, things went much better.

Musically though, the concert was a disappointment. None of her accompanists got a chance to show off their skill. Abida sang one scale the whole evening.

None of this is meant to be disparaging though. Perhaps (very likely) I’m totally ignorant about the Sufi musical forms and what Parveen did was probably exactly what she has won so much acclaim for. It’s probably just me.