The Impact of Sindhi Modernity on the Shah jo Raag (Sung poetry of Sufi saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai) in Sindh, Pakistan
Monday, 23 November 2015 from 13:00 to 14:00 (GMT)
San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
By Shumaila Hemani
The partition of colonial India that led to the emigration of Sindhi Hindus from Sindh and the immigration of Urdu-speaking Muslims from across India to Sindh, created a need to defend Sindhi language and culture amongst the locals.
In this talk, Ms Hemani will argue that the post-partition Sindhi nationalism that developed in response to Pakistani state’s policy to suppress ethnic differences enabled a supposedly “little tradition” of Shah jo Raag to emerge from the Sufi shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai in Bhitshah in Sind. The shrine became the central stage for musicians from both the supposedly “greater tradition” of Gwalior gharana in Sindh, as well as rural musicians from musical communities such as manganiyaar and non-musical communities. These groups in turn became the presenters of “Sindhi culture” locally and internationally.
Whereas British writers such as the 19th century author H.T Sorley elevated the status of Shah Latif as a “classical poet” of Sindhi, similar to Milton or Shakespeare, the post-colonial Sindhi revival of the musical renditions of Shah Latif led Sindhi scholars such as Dr. N.A Baloch to argue that Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai was the “pioneer of new musical era” elevating his status to the founder of a “classical musical tradition” of Sindh.
The attempt to transform a supposedly “little” tradition to a “great” tradition reflects the distinctive experience of processes of modernity in Sindh, whereby “Sindhi music” constructed from the sonic culture of Muslim shrines makes us re-assess the place of the so-called “little traditions” in post-colonial Pakistan.
Shumaila Hemani is a PhD student in Ethnomusicology at the University of Alberta in Canada and studies Sufi music of the Shah jo Raag, the sung poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai in Sindh, Pakistan and across the borders of Pakistan and India.
She was recently awarded the State of Kuwait Doctoral Award in Islamic Studies (2015) and in the past has been recipient of Flore Shaw Graduate Scholarship in Music (2014), Paine Music Scholarship (2010), and the Institute of Ismaili Studies' (IIS) Graduate Scholarship in Islamic Studies and Humanities (2006-08), and PhD Scholarship (2013). Her publications include her MA thesis “Representing Pakistan through folk music and dances,” submitted to University of Alberta in 2011, and she has also received an invitation to contribute an entry on women's music of Pakistan for “Women and Islamic Cultures” (published by Brill).
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Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations
AKU-ISMC provides a multifaceted approach to the study of Muslim civilisations - within a framework of world cultures and through the humanities and social sciences - allowing for a wider analytical and comparative perspective. This approach is reflected in a post-graduate master's programme, professional programmes and through quality research and publications. It is reinforced by a unique bibliographical project, the Muslim Civilisations Abstracts.