Abida Parveen is a Pakistani Sufi singer, composer, musician, painter, and entrepreneur. She is popularly known as the ‘Queen of Sufi Music.’ She has sung in various languages including Urdu, Sindhi, Saraiki, Punjabi, Arabic, and Persian.
Abida Parveen was born on Saturday, 20 February 1954 (age 65 years; as in 2019) in Mohalla Ali Goharabad in Larkana, Sindh, Pakistan. Her zodiac sign is Pisces. She received training in music from her father, Ustad Ghulam Haider, and attended his music school. She was also trained under Ustad Salamat Ali Khan of the Sham Chaurasia Gharana. She got her master’s degree from Sindh and has also learned Hindi, Urdu, and Parsi.
Height (approx.): 5′ 4″
Eye Colour: Black
Hair Colour: Black
Family, Caste & Husband
She belongs to a Muslim Family. Her father, Ustad Ghulam Haider was a singer and music teacher. She has two brothers. She got married to Ghulam Hussain Sheikh (Senior Producer at Radio Pakistan) in 1975. Her husband died of a heart attack in an international flight in the early 2000s.
She has two daughters named Pereha Ikram and Mariam Hussain, who are both entrepreneurs. She also has a son named Sarang Latif, who is a music director.
When she was only 3 years old, she sang her first kalam and started singing commercially at the age of six. In the early 1970s, she started performing in Dargahs and Urs.
In 1973, she sang the song “Tuhinje Zulfan Jay Band Kamand Widha” for the Radio Pakistan. In 1977, she was announced as the official singer on Radio Pakistan. She made her first TV appearance in Sultana Siddiqui’s ‘Awaz-o-Andaz’ in 1980. Her first composition was ‘Aandhi Chali To Naqsh-e-Kaf-e-Pa Nahi Mila,’ which was written by Mustafa Zaidi.
Since then, she has composed numerous Kalams. She travels internationally, for her tours and concerts. She has never sung for any films but her pre-recorded songs have been taken into many films. Her first song which was featured in a film was ‘Sajjan de Haath;’ it was featured in the Pakistani film “Zill-e-Shah” (2008). She sang the OST for ‘Yaar ko Humne’ from the Pakistani TV serial “Shehr-e-Zaat (2012).” She released her first album “Ji Sindhi Mehfil” in 1981.
Her most famous album is “Raqs-e-Bismil,” which was released in 2001.
Abida is best known for her songs ‘Yaar ko Humne’ from the album “Raqs-e-Bismil,” ‘Jab Se Tune Mujhe’ from the album “Ghazal ka Safar,” and ‘Tere Ishq Nachaya,’ a rendition of Bulleh Shah’s Poetry.
Awards & Honours
- Pride of Performance Award by President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in 1984
- Won Shah Bhitthai Award
- Sachal Sarmast Honor
- Sitara-e-Imtiaz Award by President Pervez Musharraf in 2005
- Hilal-e-Imtiaz Award by President Asif Ali Zardari in 2012
- Wonder Woman of the Year in 2013
- Honoured with Gold Crown on glorious 40 years in the Music Industry by the Sindhi Singers Association in Larkana in 2014
- Ambassador’s Recognition Award in Dubai by Pakistani Diplomat Javed Malik in 2015
- Awarded in Dhaka International Folk Fest 2015
- Awarded in 2nd International Sufi Conference by the politician Sharmila Farooqi
- Lifetime Achievement Award by Saima Ajram, a presenter at BBC Asian Network in 2016
Awards for TV & Films
- Honoured at PTV Awards in 2011
- ARY Film Awards for Best Playback Singer for the film “Ishq Khuda” 2014
- Tributed in the category of ‘Legends’ at PTV Awards in 2012
- Hum Awards for excellence in Music in 2015
- Lux Style Awards for the Best Female Singer (film) in 2016
- Food: Karela Gosht, Beh Qeema, Bhindi
- Actor(s): Nadeem Baig, Mohammad Ali
- Poet(s): Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Bulleh Shah, Rumi, Kabir Das
- Singer(s): Lata Mangeshkar, Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan
- TV Show: “Little House on the Prairie” (1974-1983)
- Movie: Aan (1952)
- Book: ‘Abyaat’ by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai
- Abida received her musical training from her father. She calls her father ‘Baba Sain and Gawwaya.’ She and her father used to perform together at the shrines of Sufi poets. Seeing her talent, her father chose Abida as his musical heir over his two sons, when she was just five.
- Abida spent most of her childhood in singing and learning music and avoided doing household chores. Her mother always argued as to why she wouldn’t cook or clean and her father always intervened and said that her daughter would not work at home. She was so engrossed in the music that she never went out to play and would sit with her father the whole day.
- During her childhood, Abida had no friends and nobody liked to play with her. The only friend she had was Subhan.
- Abida plays Pump Organ, Keyboard, Harmonium, and Sitar.
- She calls her daughters ‘Amma.’
- She sings mainly Ghazals, Thumri, Khyal, Qawwali, Raga (Raag), Sufi rock, Classical, and Semi-classical music. However, her forte is Kafis, which is a solo genre accompanied by percussion and harmonium, using a repertoire of songs by Sufi poets.
- Her husband, Ghulam Hussain Sheikh left his job to manage and mentor Abida’s career. After his death, her daughter, Mariam took up that role, as a result, her career took more commercial route after that.
- She has her own distinctive style of clothing, which she created by herself. She wears a long simple frock buttoned up to her neck, covered with a coat. Along with it, she carries an ‘Ajarak,’ a Sindhi dupatta. She claims that her Ajarak came from dargah (mausoleum) of Sufi saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai.
- Abida Parveen collaborated with Shehzad Roy for the song ‘Zindagi,’ which was based on the social problem faced by the children.
- In 1988, her performance in Chicago was recorded by the Hazrat Amir Khusrau Society of Art and Culture, which was issued as an LP of her songs.
- In 2002, she had gone to India to record her album ‘Faiz.’ There, she happened to meet, Lata Mangeshkar, who was recording in one of the rooms in the Western In-door Studios. Talking about the incident, she says-
I was recording in one of the rooms in Western In-door studio and when I knew that Lataji (Lata Mangeshkar) was also recording in another room, I went to meet her. Once Didi knew about my presence, she brought her entire family to visit me. She sat for long hours chatting with me on various topics and when somebody asked how a great singer like her was praising a Pakistani singer like me, she just said, “The real gold always shines!” It was a touching compliment from such a legendary artist.”
- She has shared the stage with the legendary singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan numerous times. Talking about Nusrat, she said-
He was one of the few Indo- Pak artistes who knew exactly how to sing to a mehfil. How to sing ghazal, qawwali, Kaafi or sargam on stage in presence of thousands in an arresting manner so that every one in the audience would get to understand the nuances is not an easy art but he was a master of it.”
- In the 1990s, Parveen licenced her spiritual Ghazals to Bollywood, since, her spiritual brother Khan used to record songs for Bollywood.
- She has also appeared on Coke Studio in 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th seasons of the show. Talking about her experience in the show, she says-
This project which Rohail Hyatt has started is indeed great and I would like to be a part of it for a long time. The music that comes out of this project reaches both the heart and soul and it always compliments the lyrics without overriding the true message of the kalams. This platform builds on those messages of our Sufi elders.”
- On 28 November 2010, she suffered from a heart attack during a performance in a musical event in Lahore. After which, she had to go through Angioplasty and Angiography.
- In December 2012, she started her venture called ‘Abida Parveen Gallerie.’ The gallery is run by her daughters and showcases her awards, achievements for her fans, musical record, jewellery, paintings, and designer clothing for sale. The AP Gallerie contains a music recording studio in it as well.
- In 2016, she collaborated with a Canadian orchestra and an Indian music duo, Salim-Sulaiman for a special song, ‘Noor-e-Illahi,’ which was released on Eid.
- Apart from singing in Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, and Persian, she has also sung the famous Nepali song ‘Ukali Orali Haruma’ at a concert in Kathmandu, Nepal.
- In 2017, Abida Parveen was named as the Peace Ambassador of The ‘South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’ (SAARC).
- In 2012, she judged the singing reality show ‘Sur Shetra’ along with Runa Laila and Asha Bhosle. The show is a musical battle between singers of Pakistani and India, captained by Atif Aslam and Himesh Reshammiya respectively.
- Abida has taken ‘Bayyat’ (an oath of allegiance to a leader) and became the disciple of Najeeb Sultan.
- When asked about whether Sufism and its music has been taken by the Pakistani government as an aid to improve the image of Pakistan abroad, Abida says-
Pakistan seems disconnected from the outside. But it is built and running on prayers of our Sufi kings, our pirs. Poor people, rich people – we are all God’s servants … I’m lucky. My audience is my God.”
- She has done several concerts and tours internationally. Reportedly, in one of her concerts, a large number of people started crying out of control. Similarly, in one of her other concerts people fainted. The emergency people revived them, but they refused to leave as they wanted to see the full concert.
- During one of her performances in Bahrain, she received gifts and jewellery from her audience after which, she got up and said,
This is worldliness. I have no relation with it. This does not interest me.”
- After the death of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in 1997, Abida is regarded as his successor.
- In 2013, she sang ‘The Pilgrimage,’ which was composed by the famous English composer, John Tavener at Manchester International Festival.
- In 2019, she released her YouTube series, “Bazm-e-Rang,” which features artists including Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Atif Aslam, Khamaj and many more. The series is the directorial debut of her son, Sarang Latif.