Abida Parveen's performance on November 17 at The Hindu Friday Review November Fest was a celebration of her devotion and quest to achieve oneness with God. Through her engagement with Sufiana, she displayed a profound knowledge of tassawuf (mysticism). Her music reflected the dominant, conscious spiritual concerns and the hidden, unconscious concerns of millions of soul seekers. However, the instant appeal of each powerful rendition made for a satisfying and soothing experience.
The Qual message of Prophet Mohammed in Hazrat Amir Khusro's composition set the tone for a night of passionate and highly-charged lyricism. Abida's deep and resonant voice, with its thunderous overtones, inspired form and movement; yet, she remained a picture of incredible humility. Her rendition of Yaar tha Gulzar tha in Bageshwari, set in roopak taal, a song in which a lover attributes his greatness to the glory of God, scaled seemingly unfathomable peaks.
Bulleh Shah's Ishq Nachaiya invoked the spirit of surrender that's the basis of renunciation, while Yaar Ko Hamne Ja Baja Dekha, a number that best defines Sufism, asserted the omnipresence of God. Abida's rendition of Chhap Tilak, a traditionally popular Sufiana piece about a moment of truth, exhibited both technique and sensibility.
Khusro Raaen Suhaag Ki, Jo Jaagi Pi Ke Sang, Tan Mora Man Peer Ka, Jo Dono Ek Hi Rang - conceived by Hazrat Amir Khusro in his love for Nizamuddin Auliya, it is a confrontation with the inner, integral self as it is glimpsed somewhere in the recesses of the mind's eye. Abida's unique style, which set the bols like a sargam at tremendous speed before meeting the sam, was a feat of craftsmanship.
In Pag Ghungroo Baandh Meera Nachee Re, Abida creatively elaborated on the images of Mira. In Damadam Mast Kalandar, the resolution of raqs created an ecstasy; the artist and the audience seemed to enter a universe devoid of boundaries.
The pièce de résistance of the evening was the Punjabi song Main Har Dam Rab Rab Kardi. At the end of the show, Abida received two standing ovations and was entreated with encores. She chose two memorable numbers - the first was Husn Ki Ibteda Bhi Tum, Ishq Ki Inteha Bhi Tumby Hazrat Bedam Sha Warsi. In this dadra, Abida transferred her own bliss and joy to every listener. Finally, she articulated the experiences of despair and exaltation in her interpretation of Mansoor, who was hung for proclaiming the truth - an-al-haq.
The rapture and frenzy of a qawwali group repeating lines several times over, was singly achieved by Abida. She sang with abandon and shone like Allah ki nek bandi. Accompanying her were Ustad Nazir Khan on the tabla, Ustad Mansoor Hussain on the harmonium and Ustad Karan Hussain on the dholak.