Exclusive Interview of Ismaili Sufi, Ghazal and Qawaal Artist: SHABNAM MERALI

By: Shehzad Ali Darwish


Sufi and Qawaal artist, Shabnam Merali is not a standard woman. An accomplished musician, she has skillfully mastered the world of classical Raags, Ghazal, Sufi-Qawaali and Ginans. She continues to enthrall her audience by singing Sufi Kalaam (Poetry). In the interview, Shabnam shares details of her life, musical career, experiences with us as we get a better understanding of this beautiful soul, who is constantly enriching many lives with her affable personality. Elegantly-simple, here is a woman you cannot help loving.

Shehzad Ali Darwish: Shabnam, you are originally from Karachi, Pakistan and now residing in Edmonton, Alberta. Did you always aspire to be a musician?

Shabnam Merali: Yes, I am from Karachi. Music has been present throughout my life, first as a child, I was fascinated by the great Ustads and felt a deep desire to seek that path. However, this was not the case when my family and I moved to Canada. I studied accounting and practiced it for numerous years. Then, one fine day, I abandoned the world of numbers and with the support of my husband and children, I pursued music.

SAD: Was it difficult? I mean…to make it as a career.

SM: It was alarming! ( laughs). The difficult part was in discovering musical intrument accompanists to work with. There were few at that time. Not like the hub nowdays, where the creative world is thriving. With perserverance and having the deep love to sing, I had to remain cerebral and not give up! Luckily, as the years progressed, I found mutual musicians and got my feet right into it.

SAD: Shabnam, you have brilliantly performed over hundreds of concerts world-wide. How do you manage to keep such a hectic schedule and still find time to pursue other endeavours. I hear you are also involved in the Ismaili Institution.

SM: Yes, I am still alive after all that !! (laughs). My schedule is tumultuous, no doubt. The family’s support is a great encouragement to keep up. I regularly perform in Pakistan, Europe, Africa, USA and Canada, thus, I am out of the country quite frequently. I manage by keeping up with my riyaazat (singing practice), and by meditation. It certainly helps keep away the clutter that does build up by travelling so much. Remember, these travels are not leisure, but often days of real hard work, be it rehearsing, delivering performaces, recordings and interviews.

SAD: Why have you chosen the genre of Qawaali & Ghazal as the medium?

SM: My love for Sufism. And my love for the Urdu poetry. Both dwell in the deep core of my heart. When I am performing Qawaali, I literally transcend into an enigma– some spirit lifting me and I am one with the Almighty. Sort of surreal to dissect the emotions. Very cathartic.

SAD: I agree. In fact, in December 2007, the show ‘Riyaazat’ held in Toronto, you got a standing ovation for your performance. I know, because I was there and quite charmed by your performing ability. How does that make you feel? Being able to “lift” the audience.

SM: Thanks for being there. I feel very humbled and blessed to be able to transcend people’s hearts with music. It is a silent communication between the aches, happiness and spiritual upliftment that we human beings can share. I recall the crowd in Karachi, Pakistan in 2007 for a concert, “Nazraana -e- Mohabbat — the audience were in thousands and my energy exude from theirs. Similarily, I experienced the same thrill when I performed, “Taarif -e- Mowla (for the Golden Jubilee) in Calgary, Alberta Dec 2007. So, it is not always necessary that the artist is the “queen” for the night, it is the audience that ignites that in me.

SAD: Heard you dabble with visual art – painting?

SM: (smiling). Who is giving out my secrets?? Yes, I have dabbled. It’s quite relaxing! You must try it too!

SAD: After all the concerts and rehearsing, the volunteer endeavours in the Aga Khan Institution(s), family commitments, being a radio host, social gatherings, and attaining many awards, what does Shabnam Merali do for relaxation?

SM: I enjoy opera. Also, the free time gives me an opportunity to spend quality time with my family and friends. I take walks. Reading and attending my lawn !!

SAD: What does Shabnam read? Who does she read?

SM: I enjoy literature, islamic studies, history and poetry. Works of M.G.Vassanji, Amitav Ghosh, Naguib Mahfooz, Farhad Daftray, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Farid Atthar, Rumi, Mirza Ghalib, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Parveen Shakir, Pablo Neruda are some of my favourite reading pleasures. Each of their works attributes an extension of “human conditions”, by which, various themes are explored in the books. Very Effective. I have now commenced to collect African authors who seem to be marganilised in the global map….but are emerging slowly.

SAD: Who are your favourite musicians whom you have admired?

SM: There are few: Noorjehan for her versatilty. Mehdi Hasan for his rendering of fine ghazals. There are some instrumentalists I adore – Sitar, Sarangi and Santoor. Ashwini Deshpande a good raaga vocalist. In the Western music, it is Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky. I also enjoy jazz, so I would also say the music of Abdullah Ibrahim a South African musician. There are some lovely Arab voices of Sabah Fakhri, Umm Kulthum and Wadi es-Safi who are tender and yet powerful.

SAD: Historically, the art of Ghazals was practiced in the courtyards of the Mughal Emporers and has been dominated by male performers. The trend (thankfully) has been changing, and more women ghazal singers have taken pursuit. Was it ever a challenge for you as being a powerful ghazal singer? You are not a disciple of any ustads, so how did you break into the world of so-called male dominated field?

SM: Actually, Shehzad, the first ever classical Thumri singer was a woman named, Gauhar Jaan in the early 1990’s who was a courtyard singer and proved to be quite an extraordinary performer. women have always been active in classical music and ghazals. A fine singer, Begum Akhtar was perhaps one of the most daring women singers to delve into the art. Yes, no doubt, the male dominence has been witnessed, personally, I was fortunate to never experience such behaviour. If at any time, at some external Canadian cities, I may have witnessed the patriarchal conduct of men in the studio. I always held my ground. As for “art of Ghazal”, the poets would gather around as in a Mehfil and share their prose and lyrics. In Bahadur Shah Zafar’s (the last moghul emperor /poet) courtyard, some poets like Mirza Ghalib, Zauq and Momin Khan Khan would recite their ghazals. Of course, the period of “political poetry” as I call it, was articulated through Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmad Faraz, Josh Malihabadi
was of great meaning to me, for I was residing in Karachi and their ghazals influenced me. I wanted to sing them. Desired to “feel” what they wrote.

SAD: Most people like Bollywood pop music in the South Asian community, how do you adapt to their interest, considering you are smoothly blended in classical / qawaali genre?

SM: Thank God we all have different taste! Imagine if we all liked the same? I adapt well in social environment. Shehzad, the good thing about having diversified array of music, we are all trying to preserve the South Asian / Central Asian cultures. The very fact, that, Classical music and Qawaali remain strong and not obscure, it is because of the interest people are developing. I see that in young people as well. Surely, for certain groups of people, pop music is something they relate to, I think it is great to have a medly of so much music. Afterall, what is music? But a prayer! A feeling to enhance or escape. It is a secret world of your own.

SAD: Wow. Well said…the last lines! Have your children taken after you?

SM: Our children are musically inclined. They enjoy operas and symphonies, and respectively play various instruments. Both have given wonderful performances within the Ismaili community and externally.

SAD: Let’s talk about what Sufism means to you?

SM: It is a way of life. Actually, I fancy not to be called Sufi, because any labelling attaches a massive responsibility and expectation. When such burdens are imposed, one loses the essence of “what” they aspire to be. I am a lover of God, does that make me a Sufi, or just a human? The word “Sufi” has become a marketing product by those who find it necessary to associate the word. Sufism is beautiful and some of the Pirs and Baba’s poetry is stunning. There is also poetry of Sufi Baba Farid, who I adore and shall visit the dargah in near future. In a historical context, I see myself singing the works of such Sufi Masters like Mevlana Jalaludin Rumi, Aamir Khusraw and Kabir. Now, by singing their poetry, one does not transform automatically in an aesthetic lifestyle, at least in my case, I am singing and finding solace in their poetry. I write Urdu poetry, and some of my poetry is spiritual. I gravitate towards Sufism, and also find the Zikr quite enriching, but cannot label
myself as a “Sufi” in all its prescribed definition.

SAD: You have been referred to as the “Abida Parveen of the West”. What is your view?

SM: Abida Parveen is a wonderful Sufi Singer ! I have most of her collection and enjoy her music thoroughly. But, our musical stylisation differs. I tend to blend Qawaali and Ghazal… No artist should be compared, for we would not need diversity. However, it is great to compliment each other as fellow artists. I like the sharing and accepting each others strength in their own sphere.

SAD: It’s Golden Jubilee….and you have been busy with performances. The respective invitations from Pakistan and Africa you received in commencing His Highness Aga Khan’s Golden aniversary, you were invited to perform. Please, share.

SM: What a humbling experience! I was invited by Pakistan ITREB to sing infront of five thousand plus audience, that was in Karachi. Soonafter, the tour continued to the neighbouring cities. I was invited twice on a musical tour to perform in Africa – Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Overall, my expressions of all the cities was just thrilling and most gratifying. People were receptive and the compliments and wishes flooded through out the performances. Additionally, in the early part of 2007, I had recorded three CD’s – Expressions (released in Canada -Dec 2007), Sunehra Safar (Golden Jubilee memorabilia -released in Pakistan -Mar 2008) and Khushi (released in Pakistan -Dec 2007) — all were recorded in Karachi for the inaugaration of Golden Jubilee, produced by Agakhan Institutions .

SAD: What would you recommend to young generation aspiring to study music? You studied Accounting, so you could always fall back on should the music not have worked.

SM: Initially, in Karachi I obtained my BA in Islamic Studies and Economics. After settling in Canada, I delved into the Accounting field and completed my Accounting degree, but the heart craved for music, thus I left the accounting career. No regrets. One should study what one has passion for. Simple. By nurturing an ability, one can flourish at an endless level. Having a strong academical background is a very important part in achievement. Personally, I am still learning and upgrading myself when there is the need for it. Same applies in the musical world. There is always room for development!

SAD: Last words to your music connoiseurs? Your audience is a diversified one — from global Ismaili Jamaati members listening to you reciting Ginans and facilitating Ginan Mushairaa’s within the Ismaili community to external audience of the Ghazal and Qawaali conecerts and private functions you have rendered your talent. Your presence is also appreciated by our Western friends, for you have also performed at the University of Alberta and at a South Asian Heritage festival held in Toronto, Canada. Your insight?

SM: Thank you for emitting so much love and support, throughout the years. Without my audience, the music would feel barren. When I witness my admirers so full of life and energy at the shows, I derive much happiness. Allah is my guide and I am a humble person seeking light through my music.

SAD: Shabnam Merali, you are an inspiration. I am an avid collector of your music and Inshaallah, I wish to hear you live in a concert again. Best wishes. Thank you for sharing your life.

SM: My pleasure, Shehzad. Best of wishes.

(Mr. Shehzad Ali Darwish is a Senior Editor / Journalist for the Naya Adab Literary Group. The organization supports progressive arts and embraces pluralism. Mr.Darwish resides between South Asia and Canada. He is currently directing a film on socio challenges of the Northern Areas of Pakistan.)

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

43 thoughts

  1. YAM. A great interview and it is always great to see an Ismaili making difference. Shabnam Merali seems an intelligent and great performer from the interview. Never heard of her and when I do this article will remind me of her talent. I like Arabic music too especially Umm Khaltum and it’s great someon does too.




  2. Golden Jubilee Mubarak folks,
    Now this is good to read, didn’t realize Edmonton produced great singers. LOL. Am happy to read the historicity of the origination of ghazal and the poets mentioned. very impressive answers. never knew there was a women singer in early 1900 but i just looked up on internet and lo behold its there. shabnam, one day i wish to hear your music. i will look for cd’s mentioned in jk’s.
    shehzad sir, what film are you making? will it inviole ismailis in northgern areas? becareful when filming there, lots of danger. we pray your safety.
    i love you all.

    saeed hunzai


  3. nice interview. What kind of painting does madam do? I’d like to meet this star one day. where to find shabnam’s cd’s? please tell me. nice picture with hands in air, look like late nusrat fateh ali khan.

    khoda hafiz and YAM




  5. yeh she looks in to her singing. and she’s so educated which is very good role model for young people. i like her answers & she likes all knds of music. i will look in to the music she;s mentioned. i will look for her cd.
    ok ismaili mail is the best. may all be blessed.


  6. I enjoyed reading this.

    @ Ezra, Yeahh i saw her singing too. I didn’t know she’s so famous. I wish too i’d have gotten her autograph.


  7. Very encouraging interview and i really liked her answers, especially about ghazals being male dominated. Shabnam wasn’t bashful towards male singers and acknowldeged the problem but answered with balance. hope to hear her at the auditorium of Roy Thompson Hall in near future. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan delivered a concert there, maybe this Qawaal can do same. Let’s hope so.

    Secondly, the singer is well read and like herself I too like Marquez books.

    Finally, will the film director show his work in Toronto? Pls keep us posted.


  8. For those of you who have in fact had the opportunity to see her perform live, you know what a mesmorinzing performance Shabnam Merali gives. For those who are yet to see her, you will be in for a memory that will last forever. Though I missed her in the Toronto performance over the recent Darbar celebrations, I did have the good fortune of seeing her perform live in Calgary, and she delivered as expected and far more. The show had a variety of singers that had their own appeal to a variety of audiences, and all delivered well to their genre, but Shabnam managed to create the fill for the evening and stole the hearts of the audience and took away the show. I hope that you do get to see her perform soon, and more so, I hope I have the fortune to re-visit performances of hers soon. Best of luck on your endeavours Shabnam.


  9. I enjoyed reading this interview. It has been very inspiring with intelligent & intelctual answers. Thank you for submitting this fabulous interview.


  10. Dear friends,

    Thank you for appreciating the interview and for good wishes. Some of you have asked for Shabnam’s music, one can find her CD’s in Jamat khanas across Canada and within Pakistan. In other parts of the globe, if one cannot unearth her Cd’s in jk’s, ask your JK to order some! Her Ghazal / Qawaali CD’s are available in South Asian music shops.

    As for my film — it is in the initial stage of screen-writing and getting the crew organised. Inshallah, when the document is done, my partner and I shall share it with all of you.

    Thank you to Ismaili mail for providing such a wonderful platform, where both Ismaili community and external friends can learn and benefit with the knowledge provided (here).

    Much regards,
    Shehzad Ali Darwish


  11. I had travelled to the Calgary Darbar from London and saw her performing there. It was very good and I enjoyed it very much. But I was blown away by the performance of 2 young fellows who sang with her and then by themselves. Where can I find their material?


  12. Shabnam is AWESOME! I can’t wait to do a show with her again!!! She truly is the “Queen” of Ismaili Qawwali and Ghazals!


  13. YAM, I saw those young boys in Toronto too and they were mind blowing, took the crowd into the mood. Think they are from USA.
    I like this site very much. Khurshid, Shabnam and the boys were good and entertained.


  14. My God i just met her at Los Angeles didar we were packing juro’s together
    and she also gave me her CD of Golden Jubilee. She is a awesome singer and very nice person.


  15. I’ve never heard her singing but after reading the interview, goodness she’s so articulate and well into history.
    Good questions and answers.


  16. I too was blown away with her performance in Calgary. I sincerely think that the quality she brings to the table is contemporary and clean. It brings about a new methodolgy of some very authentic and deeply rooted work. I have seen her perform as a headliner and as a contributing artist and in all cases she shines through. In the Calgary Umid-e-Didar show, she was stacked up against the great names of Shamshu and Khurshid, and in a new pack for the young at heart, and she held her own and shined through not just as a lead artist but also as a strong contender to the future of geets. She worked at our heart-strings with her melodious items and got our toes tappin with the young vibrant work in tandem with the youth. Congratulations to everyone involved, and an envigorating performance, yet again Shabnam. I am looking forward to your next program and am not surprised to see such a wonderful interview. Best of luck on your documentary Shehzad. -SK.


  17. FINALLY, a well thought out interview with well articulated answers. Something that we are all deserving on in this world of thought, freedom of speech and in search of our historic backing as well as a veiw to our future. It tempts me to read up on some of the great work and authors discussed and more so looking to where to find the work as described in the geet cd’s by the artist. I will look for the ghazal and sufic poetry at south asian shops, but am happy to hear of the rich work and following of great artistry coupled with humility, poise, and dedication to the arts all around. You’ve clearly been a hit in your shows, and I will keep my mind and ears open for your next live performance here in the East, as I am sure to be one of the many looking to meet you and hear of your work. Already a huge fan, amongst many I am sure, but looking forward to engaging in your work. YAM and heartiest Mubaraki to all on a wonderful Deedar. Alif.


  18. YAM all. Interesting interview.

    Shabnam has come a long way from singing pop music to ghazals now. interesting to see the interview so well chat btwn shabnam & shehzad.

    Shehzad, i know the president of Naya Adab Literary Group, Shaheen Sultan, she’s also a painter and writer and has written on shabnam merali on this site. i know her and shabnam very well. if i remembering well shaheen was effecient PR managing for shabnam’s concerts in toronto. what a small world.
    good luck to shabnam, shehzad & shaheen


  19. YAM again. For those of interested in Sufi music, if going to Paris, don’t miss A Mystical Journey, they had given an excellent performance in Toronto several months ago. Our Canadian legends Shamshu Jamal & khurshid will also perform. You all have recently heard them at the same show as Shabnam performing, now Shamshu and Khurshid will go to Paris along with the msytical journey group.

    More info, (copying from Ismaili mail.org)

    A Mystical Journey: Sufi Music and other Expressions of Devotion from the Muslim World is a Golden Jubilee International Programme featuring music from various Sufi and other esoteric traditions of Islam. Performers include artists from Algeria, Bosnia, Canada, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Syria and the United States.

    After being enthusiastically received by more than 40 000 people during sold-out tours across Canada and the United States, A Mystical Journey will be staged at Le Palais des Congrès de Paris in France on 12 December 2008, as part of the commemorative events marking the culmination of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee.

    The programme brings together nine world-class performances. Over 60 artists and musicians will take the audience on a musical journey of the mind, body and soul, enlightening as well as entertaining through various music pieces, qawallis, ilahis, kalams and rock songs, and dance performances of the whirling sufi.

    I’m heading out with my family tomorrow for the didar and this show.

    Ismaili mail, congratulations for all the information you wholeheartedly continue to provide, may Hazar Imam bless you. Ameen.



  20. Refreshing. In researching some of the authors and works of artistry described in the article, I was pleasantly surprised to see what depth of artistry is really out there and how Shabnam Merali coulld shed light on areas like this, and bring to par areas of knowledge and plurality of the arts in similar genre. Very refreshing. I must say, the depth impress’ me. I will also comment, that looking into your history of performances world wide, especially in the Jubilee Year alone, your tenacity and performance capacity, coupled with your depth of knowledge has been humbling and certainly very refreshing. I am impressed. Thank you for raising the bar, and allowing us to “think” a bit of the history of our musical culture. In reading and making some inquiry about your work, I am told that you have performed in 30+ shows world-wide for the Jamat, and this is a dedication you have given to the Jubilee, and have halted performance time in your Ghazal and related to make space for Jubilee work around us. Best wishes in your endeavours.


  21. Hello, hey Shehzad, i know Naya Adab very well, shaheen sultan is the founder of this and she also written on shabnam merali.
    Shabnam, good for you and didn’t know you’re so much into reading and painting now? Very good connection btwn questions and answer, like a mirror to the soul.

    Good luck to Shehzad for her film and Shabnam for her music.
    Ismaili Mail team rocks!


  22. OH MY GOD, I just saw this article. I saw her in Toronto and was so happy with the program, but had to leave earlier and couldn’t stay. I saw her in the Riazat program and my husband was completely gung ho about going the next day as well but we had to give way for other Jamati members to partake in the inspiration. Toronto leaders and organizing staff please make way for another program with her as the darbar program was not enough air time for her and her riazat was a while back. It’s time we hear her again. Pleae consider our appeal.


  23. @ Shehzad, when is your film going to be out? Social changes in the NA’s sounds quite interesting, about time their issues are focused and known that it’s not only a “tribal area”, there’s much to benefit in terms of their culture and lifestyle. I’ve done some documentaries of Sindhi people some years ago. It’s rewarding to make a difference. Then the Aga Khan Education Services has done a great job there. My prayers and wishes for you.


  24. @ Altaf & Nuruddin:
    Those 2 “fellows” are from Dallas, Texas and their names are Fez Meghani & Aftab Ali. (I noticed that Fez has commented above for Shabnam, and I don’t know why he didn’t say anything). I’ve seen them perform twice before, and had the opportunity to see them in Toronto. Let me tell you, their Toronto performance was not even a quarter of what these guys can normally do! Perhaps because they were limited in their items, but these folks are usually pretty wicked in their concert performances. Their CD is called A Golden Sunrise, perhaps THE best CD released anywhere during the Jubilee year. I don’t know if it is available in Canada, but it is sold at Memorabilia counters in the U.S.

    @ Fez:

    Fez, you and Aftab are phenomenal! I’m dying to see you guys perform again.

    I didn’t know Shabnam was so famous! I would’ve spent more time on her side of the hall rather than listen to the boring music on the other side of the hall!


  25. Mubaraki all. I agree FEZ & AFTAB were phenomenal. It’s good to see young jamati members accomplishing their goals. Another young rising Sufi singer also lives in the same city edmonton as Mrs. Shabnam Merali, his name is Karim Gillani. everyone’s famous. He is a young qawal sounds like rahat ali khan. shabnam and karim sing together all the time. he;s studied music at university alberta ethnomusicology department and has phd in music. it’s good to see so much talent from elder to younger generations in our jamat.
    shehzad sir, as a writer it’s good to cover music from everywhere, hope to read more on other personalities. IDEA, why not cover a personality every month like you’ve done? Just a thought. ;)

    good luck to all. ismaili mail, keep up.


  26. OH MY GOD, i now i found out the american singers. They’re BIG BIG stars and i wish I’d had taken all their autographs. Hope they come back and sing. MY GOD how to get their signatures. they were singing fast numbers and so good. i heard kursheed during silver jubilee time and after these years again. I love them all.


  27. Toronto organisers, can we request a concert for shabnam and fez and aftar. I think just the 3 of them will offer exactly what the jamat is in need for. it creates a fulfillment of emotion through her depth and sparks the crowd with the energy the men bring to the stage. the kids and the jamat in general really needs a combination such as theirs. My brother from Los Angeles was in Calgary for the darbar and he said her performance and that of the two men was just simply outstanding. Shabnam and Fez and Aftar alike, are you willing and able to perform for us together without all the others?


  28. Based on Rehana Merchant Ali Khan’s note, GO Toronto GO… bring this show on board and you’ve got a definite success on hand. It would be nice as a post-darbar rejuvination. Shabnam, Fez, Aftab, hope you’re willing.


  29. My family and i attended the Toronto darbar celebration and we saw the group. I believe senior singers like Shamshu and khursheed were also very very good. Shabnam, Fez and Aftab were also very good. the blend between both generations was stimulating and very encouraging. Khursheed is one of our best performers so it would be always pleasing to see all in the same platform. There were a number of great performers in TO. But, then we would need to read up on those performers in the future.

    Shehzad, what about considering “passerby’s” suggestion on covering up on various talented members of our Ismailis? I would look forward to reading up. Plus, ismaili mail is one of the most read blogs out there.


  30. Mubaraki to Shabnam. Shehzad a job well done in interviewing her. I was present at both the Toronto and Calgary shows and enjoyed both although Calgary seemed like a much longer show than the Toronto one! Shabnam was amazing with her Abida Parvin-like voice and the Venti was very emotional.Khursheed and Shamshu sounded great too. Superb song selection. They still sound the same! Musicians were outstanding. The young girl on the drums was amazing. All artists were amazing and was impressed by a mix of both young/new and legendary artists. I didn’t know the younger singers until I heard the younger girl sing Aveche Mowla Maro which is my best song so far and realized it was Zahira whose Shukriya cd I had bought. I didn’t see her at the Calgary show?? Beautiful Shreya-like voice and goes very well with MHIs Canada arrival video. My two little ones listen to her cd every morning and parents listen to it every evening on their way to jamat khana. The 2 boys were good too and now know who they are from the above comments.Great entertainment! Nice job organizers on promoting new artists and bringing back the older ones.


  31. I managed to see the Calgary show and was stunned to see how well it turned out and how the crowd regardless of age or comfort the music catered to all. Agree, well done organizing group and artists as the cohesiveness of both was evident in the ultimate performance. I think works of Khurshhed and Shamshu are timeless and a great fit for this occasion. The Jamat is ready for the new faces and new offers like that offered by Ms Shabnam and the Golden boys. I heard Zaheera missed the Calgary show, although it seemed they had planned for her to be there (according to the program), I understand she had other commitments with the ITREB in Ontario program. I think it is time to explore the other work of Ms Shabnam, the Golden boys and maybe Ms Zaheera as well, because from what they offered on the stage was probably a small window to an opening of a paradigm shift using their talent only needing the proper time to be able to “jolt” the Jamat and change the way to our musical history. I didn’t even want to stay for the program but was forced by my wife and this program made fond and lifelong memories for me, because of all involved especially Ms S and the Golden boys, but all were very good and worked seamlessly to perform hard and well for their Jamat. Evident they were doing it with ALL heart. I think this group should have been added as the Ismaili segment to A Mystical Journey, they could have portrayed strong dynamics and radiance and youthfulness and musical history. One last comment, the music was equally good by all performers but similar to the following from Shelina Ladha, Shabnam’s venti from her has become my “daily prayer” as well. What an effect on all of us. Mubaraki to the organizers, the musicians and each and every single artist because together it was your efforts that allowed these stong sentiments to be applauded as is evident in all these comments. Also agree, the young girl on the drums was a very nice touch, a female, young and talented. These kind of add-ons and thought process’ encourage our children and gives gender equality to our thinking. Bravo. Thank you for creating this wonderful feeling. Without meaning to stray from the topic at hand, the article presented by both sides was brilliant, with thought provoking questions and well managed and carefully poised answers. As they say in the UK then, Cheerio.


  32. I saw Shabnam Merali earlier today and can’t help myself in thinking how proud she makes me feel as an Edmontonian, a Canadian and an Ismaili to have such profound talent out there. Congratulations on your work and well done.


  33. Interesting interview, Shehzadi Ali-Darwish. Also, the President of Naya Adab, Shaheen Sultan is heavily into music, and she too, has written an article on the singer on this site. Good for you, Mr.Ali-Darwish for being part of Naya Adab.

    The menagerie of poets mentioned in the interview, ie Faiz, Zauq, Bahadur Shah Zafar, all of them had a dinstinctive association to their works accroding to the time period they wrote. Interesting though, that, as a Sufi singer, Shabnam has created a balance of such poetry, as the poets are between the range of Socialistic (Faiz) and Sufic (Rumi) influences.

    The stylization of this interview is unique, an impression well created.

    With an exception of a CD, I haven’t heard Mrs. Shabnam Merali sing live, but with the support of Shaheen Sultan & Shehzad Ali-Darwish’s, respective articles, I’m sure the singer has won a place in the musical world. Does she compose her own music? Best wishes.

    Shehzad Ali- Darwish, when do you commence the filming in Pakistan?

    Thanks to Ismaili Mail, am learning a great deal about Ismaili(sm) and its commitment for a plural world. Keep up.



  34. Ya Ali Members, a very good interview to read and know about. There are two young performers in Ottawa by name of Saba and Daniyal Rawjani who’ve made excellent cd and given honorary views. It would be very kind of you to interview them and learn of their motivations. they’ve sung allah hoo and other sufi music too. I look forward to see more interviews of different people.


  35. Hi All,

    This is Kalpana.I’m a Ghazal and Sufi singer and am just amazed to see the love of people from Toronto and other parts of Canadafor for our genre of music.I’m extremely interested in performing for the people of Toronto.

    Would love to listen from you.


  36. Yam all. This is a good interview. Wish Shehzad Ali Darwish could interview Zahira Dhalwani the great singer who sang during Golden Jubilee in Toronto. I think this Shabnam was also part of the group and it would be super nice if we could get to know Zahira as an interview. Her Shukriyaa album is the best.

    Great job. Navroz greetings to everyone at Ismaili Mail blog.


  37. I live in Calgary and was priviledged to view a screening of Sunehra Saffar-The Golden Journey. What a fabulous compilation of capturing the history and work of His Highness, and through that accomplishment doing so in a way that’s not only historic, insightful and articulate, but a musical pleasure, with lyrics and vocal attributes which are outstanding. I was further impressed, but certainly not surprised, that the singer in the screening was none other than Shabnam Merali. Another masterpiece and outstanding accomplishment for Ms Merali. Another happy day for us and left us feeling extremely proud to be who we are. Mubaraki Shabnam for a wonderful keepsake and I hope to see more of your fabulous dedication and work as we go forward. Thank you. Aminmohamed L. Calgary Alberta Canada


  38. Great interview. I enjoyed reading it. There are lots of our Ismaili singers who are doing great music and this was proven during the Golden Jubilee clebrations. All got together and gave their best. I got to hear Shabnam, Zahira, Fez, Khursheed during the celebrations. Khursheed is a great senior artist and I’m sure it best have been a privilige to work with senior composers. It’s nice of this blog to have news about our community and it’s people.

    @ Mr. Darwish, please look into getting more interviews on our Ismaili talents out there. From reading the requests above, there seems to be an outpour on reading about people and what brings them to levels of talent. It would be great for younger generation to read up on their senior models. What kind of film are you working on in the Northern areas? Will it be specifically towards Ismailis?
    Thanks very much.



  39. @ Amin L, the compilation is good. The singer performed well and I think the credit also goes very much to Al-Waez Zulfiqar Ali Jessani of Karachi Pakistan who is known for his poetry and for contributing his poetry to Sunehra Safar. Good job.


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