“"Far from a typical album, Mannat is Shumaila Hemani’s extraordinary, contemplative debut...her own lyrics are arranged to create audible sculptures evoking powerful imagery and stirring potent emotions."” - Jenny Feniak
“Sufi singer pens powerful album in support of victims of catastrophic floods in Pakistan” - Eric Volmers
“Shumaila Hemani’s Powerful Track “Displacement” Evokes a Spirit of Perseverance in the Face of Devastating and Uncertainty in the Wake of the Floods in Pakistan.” - Simian Thinker
— Queen City Sounds and Arts
Award-Winning Acousmatic Composer
Shumaila Hemani, Ph.D.
University of Alberta, Canada
“Creating audible sculptures evoking powerful imagery and stirring potent emotion,” Shumaila Hemani’s debut album, Mannat, is applauded by the Edmonton Journal and Calgary as a “powerful album” supporting victims of climate disaster with Sufi poetry. Shumaila Hemani, Ph.D. in Music from the University of Alberta, the Former Music Faculty, Semester at Sea, Spring 2020 voyage and the Faculty of Extension (University of Alberta) is an award-winning Alberta-based Sufi singer-songwriter, acousmatic composer, sing-style poet, spoken word artist, and performer of traditional Sufi repertoire. Her composition: Perils of Heavy Rainfall, received the Second Prize at the Listening During COVID contest curated by the Canadian Association of Sonic Ecology (CASE) and the pioneering Canadian soundscape composer Hildegard Westerkamp applauded her composition, Mannat, for “beautifully taking the listeners “to an immersive world of different music, chanting, and drones.” Hemani spoke at the first Canadian Music Climate Summit in Toronto in October 2022 followed by a video exhibit from her music album at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). She is currently an Artist-in-Residence at the largest online music collaboration: Global Music Match (2022), TD Incubator Arts Common, Calgary and the Mount Royal University’s Trico Changemakers Studio.
Hemani received the Cultural Diversity Award and her poem, Living with Purpose, published in New Forum, has been nominated for the Alberta Magazine Awards in Poetry (2022). Her original single: Anticipating was featured in the Cross-Canada tour for Suicide Prevention Awareness and Hope (2020) and has been critically acclaimed for expressing “a visceral emotionality and a deep musicality expertly ushering listeners into a place of contemplation and consideration” (John Wright at Radio Airplay, 2020).
“Staying rooted within traditional forms and honoring those while also bringing in experimentation, Shumaila Hemani sings Sufi epics in South Asian Sufi tradition compellingly,” says New Works Calgary. Praised for enriching Edmonton (Edmonton Journal), Hemani is locally celebrated for her “mesmerizing” and “emotionally nerve-striking” music that carries “vocal virtuosity,” expressing “radically different inner existential visions” (Calgary Herald). Hemani received the Cultural Diversity Award and her poem, Living with Purpose, published in New Forum, has been nominated for the Alberta Magazine Awards in Poetry (2022).
Hemani has performed for Celebrating Life (2022), SpringBoard YYC (2022), the FACTOR-funded International Women’s Day (2021) and Canadian Music Week (2021), Femme Wave Festival (2019) and the World Odyssey (2020) and presented virtual showcases for the Alberta Musical Theatre’s A World of Stories (2020), CJSW’s A Drop and the Turning (2021), and the Starlite Spotlight Sessions (2021), CJSR’s From Here We Go Sublime (2021). Her acousmatic compositions have been curated at the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology (CCE), Ajam MC (2021) Society for Ethnomusicology’s R.L. Stevenson Prize (2016), Sounding Board (2020), and Annual Concert (2020). Once upon a time in Kobe, Japan, commissioned by The New Music Edmonton and published in their No Normal Podcast, Episode 5 (2021) reflects Hemani’s versatility as an acousmatic composer.
Hemani continues to serve as an ethnomusicologist and her article won the first prize at Society for Ethnomusicology’s annual conference (2017). She has contributed articles for public engagement in The Conversation, the Canadian National Post, the Canadian Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences, the ArtsDesk (UK), and Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures and currently completing her first monograph for Routledge’s Islam and Human Rights Series supported by the Asian Music Society Award for Independent Scholars, State of Kuwait Award in Islamic Studies, and the Institute of Ismaili Studies Alumni research award.
Perils of Heavy Rainfall Receives Second Prize at Listening During Covid Contest (2020) by Canadian Society for Sound Ecology (CASE)
Accepted for publication in the Goose, Journal of Environment, Arts, and Culture in Canada
Monsoon is typically a season to rejoice in South Asia because it cools off July's hot summer weather. In the poetry of Sufi mystic, Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, Monsoon is a time of abundance, and his verses are prayers of abundance for Sindh and the entire world. In the past few years, however, climate change has led to heavy floods and massive displacement of poor people in Sindh. This year, floods even reached Karachi's urban city, the biggest metropolis of Pakistan, causing the displacement of 500,000 families and more than 1.2 million people. Amidst the outbreak of COVID-19, the displaced families face an even greater risk of being affected by the region's spreading virus. The soundscape composition, "Pitfalls of Heavy Rainfall," is based on field-recordings collected from July to September 2020 in Karachi, my hometown.
Forgotten Ways of Thinking
Also featured in Ear to Earth (2019) & R.L. Stevenson Prize Concert (2012)
Shumaila Hemani guides listeners through the Shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai in Pakistan to convey sonic expressions of Islamic beliefs as she experiences them. Built on the idea of “sonic photographs,” Hemani’s Forgotten Ways of Thinking, a pioneering soundscape piece from Pakistan, communicates the sonic expressions of Islamic beliefs and reflections on her subjectivity as a female ethnographer observing women’s possessed voices at the margins of a male-centered Sufi performance. Hemani created the piece on a 2009 trip to Bhitshah, Pakistan to research the tradition of the Shah jo Raag, the sung poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, that became the focus of her 2019 dissertation at the University of Alberta.
Featured in the Society for Ethnomusicology-Orchestra (2020)
Supplication is based on the tradition of asking for mannat (a wish, a prayer) at the Muslim shrines. This piece illustrates the ritual cycle of the Shah jo Raag and brings forward the blessings and prayers that the dervishes give to the believers after the recitation of specific surs or verses of poetry. The two main daastan (epic) after which special prayers are recited are those of Sohni and Marvi. Sohni drowned in the river while swimming across the shore to her beloved; Marvi returned to her people after being abducted and imprisoned by the prince of Soomro for several nights in his palace. Recited in the middle of the night and then at dawn, these prayers offer supplication, particularly for women who have stood awake tying their knots to the closed doors of Latif's shrine till dawn when these doors finally open. The pioneering Canadian soundscape composer Hildegard Westerkamp applauded for beautifully taking the listeners to an immersive world of different music, chanting, and drones.
Traditional Sufi MUSIC Performances
Dhikr, Kafi, and Waee
A Drop and A Turning, CJSW, January 2021
“Staying rooted within traditional forms and honoring those while also bringing in experimentation, Shumaila Hemani sings Sufi epics in South Asian Sufi tradition compellingly, says Rebecca Bruton from the New Works Calgary.
Poetry in the Honor of the House of Prophet in Raag Bhairon
Convocation Hall, University of Alberta
Once Upon a Time in Kobé, Japan
Commissioned by the New Music Edmonton, 2021
This piece is a surreal sound walk across streets of Kobé, Japan based on the author’s travels as a Music Faculty, Semester at Sea, Spring 2020 voyage. Based on field-recordings capturing urban soundscapes of this Japanese in February 2020, this soundwalk introduces to the listener the urban street sounds of the port city from street entertainment at the Chinese New Year’s festival to more upscale sounds of American Jazz.
The narration in Japanese and English in Kobé communication services is juxtaposed with communication in English by the American faculty within a Japanese environment. This highlights the composer's simultaneous experience of two foreign cultures: American and Japanese and portrays the experience of sailing amidst the outbreak of the global pandemic: COVID.
SONGWRITING & COMPOSITIONS
Featured in the Alberta Musical Theatre's A World of Stories (2020)
Baydaari also featured in the Indie YYC's Women in Music Series (2021) and the International Women's Day Showcase (2021)
Living with Purpose
Poem featured in Alberta's Literary, feminist magazine: New Forum's Issue # 3 (2021)
Song #1 in Ethnocloud's World Music and Asian Music charts between February to December 2020.
FEATURED in the Cross-Canada Tour for Suicide Prevention Awareness & Hope (2020) and Apple's #1 mental health app: Shine's Spotify Playlist 2020
Blending languages to convey a universal sentiment of helplessness and waiting, Anticipating bears a visceral emotionality and a deep musicality -expertly ushering listeners into a place of contemplation and consideration. Vocally, this performance bears an impressive amount of emotional vulnerability -something that listeners will respond to, especially in conjunction with these thought provoking lyrics.
Listeners seeking a musically authentic expression of frustration and isolation will find Anticipation to be a prophetic and poetic composition, and with lyrics expressed in both Urdu and English, the potential reception and impact of this song is massive! Thank you for the opportunity to listen in! - Jon Wright (Radio-Airplay)