I am Shumaila, a second year PhD student in ethnomusicology in the University of Alberta’s Department of Music and I come from Karachi in the Sind province of Pakistan. As a teenager, music was a very close and trustworthy friend during the very difficult moments when society and family pressure challenged my independence of thought and what I should pursue as a career. When choosing an area of study, the limited options that were available included Management, Accountancy, Computer Science, or Engineering — options that could provide high-salary jobs in a technologically advanced world, but did not stimulate or cultivate my imagination!
Book Review: India's Kathak Dance in Historical Perspective by Margaret Walker
IN her groundbreaking book, India’s Kathak Dance in Historical Perspective, Margaret Walker dispels myths about the formation of Kathak by arguing that prior to the 1930s a dance by that name did not exist. She develops this thesis by conducting an analysis of historical sources on Kathak combined with her ethnographic research on the community of Kathaks in present-day India to show us how this community developed from a versatile group of musicians, actors and dancers to be singly associated with a dance called ‘Kathak’ in the early 20th century.
A Travel Blog about Islamic Soundscapes of a Post-Soviet State
Places can speak to us in unpredictable ways. When senses are stimulated and memories are evoked, what is unfamiliar in what we are experiencing then seeks connections from what is already known.
Last summer, as part of my graduate studies in ethnomusicology, I had an amazing opportunity to present at a major Ethnomusicology conference organized by the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM)
As an ethnomusicologist at the University of Alberta, my research and musical practices lead me to reflect on how what I think of as a “socially isolated ear” is more prone to resist and be intimidated by cultural and religious diversity. As a Sufi vocalist, through my music I share the message of love and interfaith harmony taught by Sufi mystics — and I explore the crevices of Muslim belief and expression from a feminist standpoint.
Experiential Learning in a Floating Gand then Qurrantined Classroom
In what ways can we adapt our teaching in times of crisis to exhibit resilience such that the arts we teach inspire and empower students to act, especially in times of stress and crisis, and nurture their right to imagination? I was part of the Music faculty at the Semester at Sea’s Spring 2020 voyage that abruptly ended a month early as a result of COVID-19. I responded to the loss in experiential learning opportunities as a result of cancellation of the students’ field-classes in South Africa by bringing forward my own artistic practice and research at the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology under my mentors Prof. Regula B. Qureshi and Prof. Michael A. Frishkopf at UAlberta. I designed a virtual field class, Curating Sound, as we transitioned from a floating to a quarantined classroom. As I write this blog after submitting my final grades, my student Blake emailed, Thank you for the learning opportunity! I am sad we didn't get the real field class experience in South Africa, but I thought you provided us a unique way to meet that requirement that still allowed us to have our own creative input and experience.
Shumaila Hemani (Ph.D.), is an Ethnomusicologist, specializing in the poetry and music of Muslim South Asia.
Her research about the sung poetry of the Islamic mystic Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, Shah jo Raag, and associated hereditary communities of singers in the Sindh region of Pakistan, namely the Gwalior gharana of Sindh has received several honors and awards including First Prize for her conference paper at the Society for Ethnomusicology Conference (2017), Laura Bassi Dissertation Fellowship (2018), Frank Henderson Award in the study of Women and Religion (2016), State of Kuwait Award in Islamic Studies (2015) to name a few. She has published in the Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures (Brill) and has an upcoming chapter in Music and Social Justice (The University of Indiana University Press).
ACOUSMATIC COMPOSER, SINGER-SONGWRITER, AND TRADITIONAL SUFI PERFORMER
Shumaila Hemani, Ph.D. is an Ethnomusicologist, former Music Faculty at the Semester at Sea, Spring 2020 voyage, and a Canada-based Sufi singer-songwriter and acousmatic composer. Her research expertise in sounds of religion has been awarded first Prize at the Society for Ethnomusicology meeting (2017) and Frank Henderson Prize in the study of Women and Religion.
As a performer, Shumaila crosses gender boundaries while singing Pakistani songs of Muslim heritage. She has performed at the World Odyssey (2020), Femme Wave Festival (2019), Canada's Music Incubator (2019) the University of Alberta (2016), and the Banff Arts Centre (2015). Calgary Herald described her music as “mesmerizing," and “emotionally nerve-striking,” and carrying “vocal virtuosity,” “expressing radically different inner existential visions,”(2015) and Edmonton Journal recognized Hemani’s music for “enriching” the city’s cultural life.”
Shumaila’s acousmatic compositions: Supplication and Sarang: Perils of Heavy Rainfall were premiered at Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM)’s 2020 Virtual Conference. Perils of Heavy Rainfall received Second Prize at Listening to COVID Contest by the Canadian Association for Acoustic Ecology. Her song Anticipating was featured in the Cross-Canada tour on Suicide Prevention Awareness and Hope (2020) and curated by many mental health and wellness playlists on Spotify. Radio Airplay's John Wright considered Anticipating as "prophetic" expressing “a visceral emotionality and a deep musicality expertly ushering listeners into a place of contemplation and consideration.
Supported by the Edmonton Arts Council's Cultural Diversity Award, Hemani will release her debut album Mannat (A prayer, A Wish) in March 2021 based on traditional Sufi repertoire learned from two master-musicians in Pakistan, and commissioned by the New Music, Edmonton, Between December 2020 and February 2021, Hemani premieres her new work for Alberta Musical Theatre, The Drop and the Turning, CJSW, New Music Edmonton, and release her upcoming album: MANNAT (a prayer, a wish). .