A day before her debut, the Harvard Ed Portal will showcase a free screening of the award-winning film Marvi: The Mystic Muse, exploring singer Sanam Marvi’s search for her own roots across Pakistan and her journey with Sufism.
The film will be followed by a post-screening conversation with filmmaker Tanya Panjwani and Dr. Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Harvard University.
Co-sponsored by Celebrity Series of Boston, Harvard Ed Portal, Harvard Office for the Arts’ Learning From Performers program, Harvard South Asia Institute, and the World Music/CRASHarts, Marvi’s Boston debut is expected to be a hit.
She has earlier done international performances in notable venues like Paris’s Theatre de la Ville, Morocco’s Fes Festival of Sacred Music, and Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum and at the Pakistan embassy in Riyadh — for a week in 2015.
Marvi, a gifted vocalist, is known as one of the finest singers of Sufi devotional music and Pakistani folk songs. Her work with major Bollywood stars has made her one of the leading voices in India and Pakistan. Whether singing in Urdu, Sindhi, Saraiki or Punjabi, Marvi aims to reach across generations and cultures to create an awe-inspiring experience, meditative and trance-inducing one moment, and then thrillingly ecstatic the next.
In addition to the concert, Marvi is participating in a number of public activities to help foster cross-cultural dialogue and exchange, March 25-27.
An in-demand performer too rarely heard outside of émigré circles, Marvi is making her first extended tour to major venues in the U.S. as part of Center Stage Pakistan, a development she welcomes.
“I simply want to spread the beauty of Sufi kalam [poetry] to all corners of the world,” she told IndiaNewEngland web portal.
Born in 1986, the Pakistani singer hails from the small city of Hyderabad, in Sindh – country’s southern province which has a rich heritage of sufic culture, tradition, poetry and music.
At age seven, she began singing with her father, Faqir Ghulam Rasool, during festivals and ceremonies held at shrines Sindh and Punjab provinces. While female performers are fairly common at these festivals, Marvi’s voice stood out for its range and clarity. She continued her studies under noted gurus like Ustad Fateh Ali Khan at the Gwailor gharana (school). After making a breakout performance on Pakistan national television in 2009, Marvi has become a rising star across the subcontinent.
Backed by an acoustic ensemble of South Asian instruments, including the sitar, harmonium, tabla, and double-headed dholak drum, Marvi will perform pieces from across Sindh and Punjab, drawing upon centuries-old poetry penned by the saints and sages who lived and made music in the region, whose shrines are still central to the provinces’ cultural and musical lives.
“Sufi poetry and Sufism are about humanity, love, peace,” reflects Marvi. “It’s connecting people beyond all borders and boundaries. You don’t have to come from an Islamic tradition to get it. It’s a message for all human beings to share.”
Singing poetic texts in Urdu, Sindhi, and Saraiki, Marvi transforms songs in the ebullient qawwali and other traditions into fierce clarion calls for tolerance and understanding. Her masterful and revealatory interpretations of the sub-continent’s mystics reach across cultural borders and generations to offer solace in our uncertain and often troubled times.
As a followup to Marvi’s performance, Pakistani journalist Madeeha Syed, Marco Werman from Public Radio International’s The World, and Ali S. Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures at Harvard University on March 27 will undertake an interactive conversation on the intersection of culture, journalism, and religion in today’s global environment.
The conversation is cosponsored by the Center Stage program of New England Foundation For The Arts and the Harvard South Asia Institute.
Note: Marvi Concert tickets are available online at www.celebrityseries.org, by calling CelebrityCharge at (617) 482-6661 Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m., World Music/CRASHarts at (617-) 876-4275 and online at www.worldmusic.org, or at the Sanders Theatre box office, Holyoke Center, 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge.