The Light of God
Aliya Rasheed and The the Dhrupad Sansthan, Bhopal
Mss Aliya Rasheed ( عاليہ رشيد) is a female Pakistani Dhrupad singer.
She has trained under the Gundecha Brothers
Mss. Aliya is also beyond beeing a performing artiste
a teacher in the musicology department of the National College of Arts in Lahore, Punjab
She also teaches music at the Sanjan Nagar School.
“They say if something is taken away from you, God gives you something extraordinary in return. I think it’s God’s karishma (miracle) that I have achieved this status,” says visually impaired classical singer Aliya Rasheed. The singer, who has mastered dhrupad singing, believes that her strong hearing is a gift from God and a solid compensation for her weakness in sight. “While learning music, I realised that I could pick up sounds in just one or two tries.”
Whenever Rasheed performs in front of an audience, she cannot see her fans’ faces or the smiles pasted on them, but she can hear the applause that her inspiring performance receives. “Usually when artists begin to perform, they observe the crowd and ambience of the venue. I may not be able to look around, but my sixth sense (my hearing) helps me analyse how people are responding to my music,” she states. Her ability to pick up sounds quickly helped her learn difficult surs and adopt a vocal range faster than an average music student usually can.
Raised in the UAE, Rasheed moved back to Pakistan in 1986 and completed her intermediate studies from a college in Iqbal Town, Lahore. Her penchant for singing soon gave her the honour of leading her school choir. Rasheed’s big break, however, came when she met lawyer and musicologist Raza Kazim through a family friend in 1999. Kazim, who by then had a flourishing art institute, asked Rasheed to record a few songs in her signature style and after that there was no looking back for this brave singer.
Later in 2001, Kazim sponsored Rasheed to study with Dhrupad Maestros Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha at the Dhrupad Institute in Bhopal for four years. The experience made her excel in Dhrupad singing, which is considered one of the more difficult vocal traditions from the family of classical music.
Rasheed practises every morning at five before getting ready for her daily routine which includes vocal training at the National College of Arts (NCA) as well as conducting music classes at the Sajan Nagar Trust School.
Currently, she is working on moulding Sufi poetry into Dhrupad form. “It’s something we have been working on because I always feel that music needs to evolve,” says the singer.
Rasheed has plans to record an album in January, but she is not quite sure about the availability of finance as yet. She is also planning a tour to the US and India in 2012.
The Express Tribune, January 2nd
Mss. Aliya Rasheed is Pakistan’s first and only female dhrupad singer.
The city of Multan, also known as Madinat-ul-Auliyah or the city of Sufis, resonates with paeans to Sufi saint Baba Farid (who was born here), the notes punctuated with the azaan from surrounding mosques. However, at a recent concert in Multan, a young, blind woman was crooning Aan sunayi bansuri kanha and a Ganesha vandana in front of an enraptured audience. The alaap slowly unfolded as she explored the long song of meditation, turning the notes into a hypnotic drone, and the concert into an austere experience.
Aliya Rasheed, 33, was singing dhrupad, said to be the oldest surviving form of classical music in India. The only female Pakistani dhrupad singer, Rasheed has performed at some 50 concerts in her country and outside, since 2006. She was initially averse, though, to the idea of singing dhrupad, which is essentially a form of worship that originated from the Vedas. “My first reaction was, yeh dhrupad kya bala hai? And who are Ram and Ganesha and why am I singing about them. I felt this was un-Islamic,” says Rasheed, over the phone from Lahore.
Dhrupad, a genre of rendering a raga under a rigid structure and singing/playing it on a rudra veena or with a pakhawaj and tanpura, was popular under emperor Akbar until khayal took over. The downfall of classical music, especially dhrupad, in Pakistan began after Partition, when Pakistani musicians, including those who migrated from India, had to change lyrics, even the names of ragas and remove references to Hindu deities to be in sync with their country’s newly-formed Islamic identity. Later, Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorship ensured further tarnishing of such “un-Islamic” legacies.
But for a five-year-old Rasheed growing up in Dubai and later in Lahore, listening to Mere angne mein tumhara kya kaam hai from the film Lawaaris on a tape recorder and playing the grand piano her father bought for her to “bring some light into a sightless world”, the story of dhrupad or what Partition did to it did not matter. “I wanted to learn music and its different styles,” says Rasheed. The Pakistani came to India in 2001 on the suggestion of Raza Qasim, director of Sanjan Nagar Philosophy and Arts Institute in Lahore, where Rasheed was training in Hindustani classical music, and musician Shubha Sankaran. The latter thought Rasheed’s voice was suited for dhrupad, especially the Dagarvani style taught by the Gundecha brothers.
Mss. Aliya Rasheed is a young visually impaired Dhrupad singer from Lahore, Pakistan. Her captivating voice and innocent charm have been a source of delight to South Asian audiences since her professional debut in 2005. Her music and the story of her musical journey will surely find an appreciative ear abroad as she embarks on her first American tour in June 2011.
Aliya grew up listening to music on the radio and singing sufi devotional songs at home. Impressed by her extraordinary voice and native musical sense, her family encouraged her musical pursuits as a young adult. She started learning music at the Sanjan Nagar Institute of Philosophy and Arts (www.sanjannagar.org) in Lahore, established by the renowned attorney and musicologist, Mr. Raza Kazim. Then, in DATE, Aliya was offered the chance to take her music to a higher level, when Ms. Shubha Sankaran (www.dhrupad.com), the noted Surbahar player from Washington, D.C., recommended that Aliya study Dhrupad music under the guidance of Dhrupad Maestros Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha at the Dhrupad Institute in Bhopal, India (www.dhrupad.org). Mr. Raza Kazim (www.sanjannagar.org) sponsored her studies in India. In 2001, She seized the opportunity and crossed the border to India in order to learn Dhrupad – the oldest and most demanding of Indian classical vocal forms. Following the traditional format of learning (guru-shishya parampara), Aliya left her family and all that was familiar, and took up residence in the home of her teachers in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, for a period of several years. Aliya feels honored to be the first female Pakistani Dhrupad artist to undergo formal training in India, and this at a time when Indo-Pakistan relations were hardly easy.
Since September 2005, Aliya has been working as a vocal teacher in the musicology department of the National College of the Arts (NCA) in Lahore. She is also teaches music at the Sanjan Nagar School
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