UMS presents the hypnotic sounds of Sufi poetry
“I fill this earthen vessel with love for my Beloved / I fill this earthen vessel with love for my Lord / I fear only the wrath of Allah / I fear only the wrath of my Lord” — “Mahi Yaar Di Gharoli” by Sachal Sarmast, Bulleh Shah and Shah Hussain
Sanam Marvi, renowned singer of Pakistan and South Asia, performs many poems like "Mahi Yaar Di Gharoli" in the native languages of her country. Trained in Sufi and folk music, her voice captivates audiences with her chillingly hypnotic and beautiful tones.
Generally, Marvi performs for Pakistani and South Asian audiences, where she is in high demand. However, she decided to return to the United States for her fourth tour.
“[I] saw it as an opportunity to perform for non-South Asian audiences. [I] felt that this was great opportunity to get [my] music across” Marvi said through translator Arieb Azhar, a guest artist performing with Marvi.
Born in the Pakistani province of Sindh, Marvi sings in languages such as Sindhi, Saraiki, Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi, which are prevalent around different areas of the Indus River.
“They are connected languages, but of course very different," Marvi said. "The message of the poems [I sing are] the same.”
Marvi’s career in music began at a very young age. Her father trained her, and upon realizing her talent, he exposed her to the masters of Pakistani classical music.
“Anyone who wants to get into music seriously has to start studying from the basics and the basics are classical music whether you choose to specialize in folk, semi classical or classical. But to gain a real knowledge of music you have to study from the classical masters,” Marvi said.
While music in Pakistan is different than in the United States, it is a highly valued aspect of society. Respected poets write the majority of the songs, and folk music is an important part of carrying on traditions and messages of love and faith.
“90 percent of the folk music in Pakistan consists in singing the poetry of the various poets of Pakistan who have written Sufi poetry in the diverse languages of Pakistan. So people sing that poetry and take that message forward,” Marvi said.
The messages of Sufism strive to teach the customs of Pakistan and to preserve these traditions through song. On a deeper level, these songs serve to connect the audience with something within themselves.
“People say that Sufism is the mystical side of Islam, but the Sufis themselves say that Sufism is a message for all humanity," Marvi said. "The message is an inclusive message of universal humanity, of connecting with each other as human beings before anything else. The message is one of connecting with the divine inside each of us in our own ways and connecting with the oneness of all existence.”
Marvi does not sing in English, but that does not prevent anyone from understanding the true beauty of her lyrics. Whether one is fluent in a Pakistani language or not, all will be able to relate to emotion that Marvi draws from.
“Even if someone doesn’t understand the language, they will understand the sounds that are being created through her vocals, through the instruments that are being played … Music is the same all over the world. Notes are the same, being in tune is the same … they will understand the feeling of communion through the performance,” Marvi said.
Marvi is extremely popular in her home country. According to Azhar, her success is due to her proper training by the masters.
“It was just a matter of time before [I] became exposed to the public," Marvi said. "The first time it came about in 2009 when [I] was picked up to perform at this very respectable television program on folk and classical music.”
Afterwards, Coke studio, financed by Coca Cola, signed with Marvi and she has performed with them for the past seven years. Arieb has also performed with this contemporary Pakistan program. Marvi’s career skyrocketed from there as more and more people flocked to hear her mesmerizing singing.
“The only message [I] can give is to encourage people to come and listen to the music. [I hope] to put on a great performance,” Marvi said.
By bringing Sanam Marvi to the University, UMS is creating an even more diverse array of performers. As a solo artist from across the globe, Marvi adds to the cultivation of the art community in Ann Arbor. Her traditions and unique style offer a voice for a culture that is often overlooked.