July 10, 2012 By Najiya and Ayoob Rahman

Her Song, Her Voice and Her Landscapes

Najiya_advtWhat is the difference between when she sings and when he sings? What is the difference between her song and his song?, or, in other words, the difference between when she sings songs she has made and when she sings the songs he has made?.

Had change of pronouns been merely a linguistic issue, the above questions could have been irrelevant. Music is a woman’s bold expression of her identity, body, religion, nationality and diaspora. It remains bold when she sings. It remains bold when she sings her own songs.

The relationship between Music and Women has been discussed by many writers, including the eminent Edward Said, especially in an article ‘Music and Feminism’ published posthumously in Music at the Limit.

We give here profiles of some ace musicians who sing their own sons, with a disclaimer that we have left many names to be included in the list.

Abida Parveen

Abida Parveen, widely known as the successor of Nusrath Fateh Ali Khan, an event in the history of Khawali, sings in her own mystical voice: Hum ne is shahr mein sanvare de/hum se jithne sukhan tumhare dhe.

‘Sufis speak to god and men in the language of music. Sufism and music is indivisible from each other and the message of both of love and peace is universal,’ says Abida, who was born and brought up in a landscape and with a mindscape of mystics and sanyasins.  Abida has a penchant for Urdu love songs and ghazals rather than khawali and so she sings to the accompaniment of harmonium and other such instruments. She is the only woman to have ever been allowed to sing in the hermitage of Sufi saints.

Abida was born in Hyderabad 1954 and her father Gulam Haider was a music teacher. He noted the taste of her daughter for music and encouraged it. She came close to the Sufi stream of music under the tutelage of Ustad Salamat Khan. She officially forayed into the world of music after her marriage with Gulam Hussain, who was a senior producer with Radio Pakistan.

She gives musical treat to many Sufi hermitages in Sindh and many more international forums. She sings in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Sairaki languages and has a huge fanfare all over the world. She tells listeners outside Asia: ‘What is important is our experience of words, not their meanings.’ It is not for nothing that her music is loved by people despite the difficulty in the language.  The Daily Telegraph newspaper describes her in the following words: ‘Abida Parveen is one of the best singers in the world, even if you don’t understand her songs.’

She once spoke about the Indo-Pak issue: ‘Both the countries share much cultural and traditional lore. One day peace will come about and Sufi music will play an important role in that synthesis.’

Aynur Dogan

Aynur Dogan is one of the frontline Kurdish singers who created a new wave in the Turkish music. Aynur has become a universal face of the Kurds, who are the largest ethnic community without a country in the world. She sings in her own language and it thus becomes a political activity much more than a cultural activity. Aynur says in the documentary Crossing the Bridge directed by Fatih Akin:

‘My music has captured my life and experiences. The problem I am facing is as old as centuries. Kurds desire to have their language and culture preserved; their history remembered; and their religion and culture respected. When I sang in Kurdish before, they took away my Sas (instrument). Situation has bettered.’

Until recently, Kurdish music was banned in Turkey. Aynur’s album Kese Kurdan had been banned by the court accusing it of inciting women to take part in Kurdish struggles (the album incites women to take to the hills and promotes division ) and Aynur was blacklisted. The ban was lifted in September, 2005 thanks to the intervention of the High Court. After the ban on the Kurdish music had been lifted, the music of Aynur, Nilufer Akbal and Rojin Rojin began to be resonated all over Turkey. They blended Kurdish music with the western musical conventions. Aynur introduced herself in the US with Voice of Kuristan in the San Francisco Music Festival. Voice of Kurdistan was an ensemble of traditional and new Kurdish musicians and dancers.

Aynur was born in Tunceli, a south-eastern province having Kurdish influence, in 1975. She was born and brought up in a landscape inhabited alongside people by myth and music nourished by the Alawi minority. When the villages were all de-populated during the Civil War of 1990s, Aynur’s family migrated to Istanbul. In the city, she started learning Sas under the tutelage of Sas virtuoso, Arif Sag.

Susheela Raman

Susheela Raman has created much fanfare all over the world with a voice bordering on magic, a captivating presentation and the presentation of Euro-African-Asian musical conventions. In her songs, we can feel Indian themes melting in the European rock and blues and vice versa. “I don’t respect artificial boundaries in the world of music. My aim is to convert everything to rapture. If we go deeper into a culture from the mainstream we can see layers of tones unknown, if eager to come out. I have been trying to discover newer voices of India for a long time. The divine music part of Tamil Bhakthi (devotional) Movement has so much influenced me. This music lies at the heat of Tamil culture. My album Rise-up was created out of my tryst with the Tamil music.

Susheela has formed a club named Outer India in London with the aim of setting stage for new musical productions that are closely related to the Indian Sub-continent. It is expected to be a traveling troubadour to give a musical treat to fans all over the world. Susheela’s albums include Salt Rain (2001), Love Trap (2003), Music for Crocodiles (2005), 331/3 (2007), and Vel (2011). The title track of Love Trap is the reproduction of Ethiopian musician Mahmoud Ahmed. Vel is part Tamil and part English. Vel is Susheela’s expedition into her own history-into Tamil Music.

The South Indian taste blended with the Euro-African-Asian layers is the characteristic of Susheela’s music. Susheela’s parents with Tamil origin migrated to Australia from London, when she was four year old. Having mastered the nuances of Australian Rock, she came to India to learn Carnatic music. There began the harmony of European and Indian traditions….

Her ensemble with Mercen Dede in which she reproduces Tyagra Raja’s Dasarathe and Dede gave voice to Rumi betokens for listeners the synthesis of Asian and Persian mystical traditions.

Shadia Mansour

“Anyone who is not actually living under the circumstances they preach about will be taken less seriously than if they were. I have borne witness to the truth and have tasted the realities of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. You only need to cross an Israeli checkpoint to know what sheer humiliation feels like, or wake up to house demolitions in Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem, or visit children in youth centers in camps without electricity or clean water. But more importantly, truth is truth, no matter who spreads it. The bottom line is, it’s not about us artists, it’s not about where we are from, and it’s bigger than all of us. It’s the message and the impact”. These are the words of Shadia Mansour while she spoke with the legendary musician Robert Wyatt for the Bomb magazine.

Shadia Mansour is a very familiar name for many when it comes about music, especially the Arabic Hip Hop. The London-born Palestinian rapper became news when she declared musical intifada against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, her people’s land, the repression of women, and the conservative opposition to her music. Her words made explosions among the youth and awakened them about the injustice around their world. She is working for the equality of rights as males and females and the liberation of Palestine.

Being the first lady of Arabic Hip-hop and remaining as the most celebrated Arab lady rapper, Shadia is a trend setting figure in the Middle-East. The waves of her hip-hop uprising are spreading over many parts of the world. She is using her voice as a resistance against massive human rights violations in Palestine and she loudly proclaims that Palestine is on the world map and she won’t allow its occupation by any forces. These powerful words are by and large inspiration for many resistant movements and emerging rappers who are politically enlightened and aware.

Born in Britain for Palestinian parents, Shadia experienced the power of music at her very early age when she attended peace marches and anti-occupation processions in London with her parents. She was inspired by the classical Arabic artists like Fairous and Muhammed Abdul Wahab.

Shadia stood out from other British rappers choosing to rap in Arabic. She was emotionally attached to Palestine, its culture and even language. She says “Arabic is the language of poetry, for me its all about originality. I am Arabic, my name is Arabic, and I believe I should rap in Arabic”. She was very proud to be an Arab; she preferred her ethnicity to any nationalism. Much of her words feel hostile and accompanied anger and she herself tells that it may be result of her bitter experience in the west Bank as a girl and as an artist. . “It’s my anger coming out and it’s resistance. It’s non-violent resistance.” 26 year old Shadia told BBC.

Posted in: Woman