Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, Shumaila Hemani, an Alberta, Canada-based Sufi singer-songwriter brings to diverse listeners around the world new musical interpretations to the traditional repertoire learned from master musicians in Pakistan. Hemani received her Ph.D. in Music from the University of Alberta (2019) and is an expert in ethnomusicology with an emphasis on religion. Since her graduation, she has given memorable performances and showcases at Canada’s Music Incubator (CMI) (2019), Femme Wave Festival (2019), and the World Odyssey’s Spring 2020 voyage with Semester at Sea.
Supported by the Edmonton Arts Council’s Cultural Diversity Award, Shumaila will release her upcoming CD Mannat(just italics for album titles; no quotes) (a prayer, a wish) in October 2020, accompanying her vocals on her portable harmonium with North Indian tabla played by Ojas Joshi and the Iranian zither santur played by Mehdi Rezania.
This album combines four different styles of singing Sufi Poetry in Sind and will immerse the listener in contemplations of love and self-healing that empowers them in resisting systemic oppression and in finding purpose within a universe rearranging itself.
Hemani’s music is recognized for “enriching” the city’s cultural life by the Edmonton Journal (2016). Her recent presentation about Islamic soundscapes (2020) and recitation of prayer received a standing ovation on the World Odyssey and was perceived as opening one’s ears to listen in new ways. The Calgary Herald described it as “mesmerizing,” and “emotionally nerve-striking,” and carrying “vocal virtuosity,” “expressing radically different inner existential visions”. (2015). The Femme Wave festival described Hemani’s music as cutting across gendered norms in South Asian musical tradition, presenting male repertoires as well as styles of singing taan(virtuosic musical phrases in Hindustani music) from a feminist angle.
“My lyrics seek to decolonize intercultural conversations by resisting cultural essentialism and binary mindsets.My musical interpretations of Sufi music from Pakistan are indicative of how this repertoire has empowered me,” explains Hemani. “Based on tales of love in the local folklore, these Sufi poems have enabled me to cultivate love as a tool for social justice. I hope to create a space for women to exercise their right to re-imagine their faith and belief and create new possibilities for being, living, and transforming the planet.”
Her research and performance in the Islamic mystical poetry of Shah Latif culminated in cross-cultural lecture demonstrations, performances, and electroacoustic installations internationally. Hemani’s multi-lingual repertoire offers a catharsis on a rainy day and will restore peace in your heart. She takes you in a state of hal, which is an ecstatic mystical state of inner knowing and higher access to one’s intuition. Inspired by Pakistan’s legendary Sufi singers: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Abida Parvin and mentored by Ustad Hameed Ali Khan Sahib (Gwalior Ggharana) and Faqir Jumman Shah (Latifi lineage of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai), Shumaila combines “art” and “folk” Sufi musical expressions from Pakistan multi-lingually singing in English, Urdu, Quranic Arabic, Sindhi, Punjabi, Siraiki, Gujarati, and Persian. Her recent releases, Muntazir/Anticipatingand Living with Purposeare available for listening on social media.
“What listening offers us is the most visceral, immediate, and intimate doorway into realizing and practicing our humanity during any global crisis,” says Hemani