A searing assemblage of Islamic Sufi spiritual music from the hinterlands of Sindh and Punjab, this compilation marks Sublime Frequencies' debut release of field recordings from Pakistan. Recorded and compiled by Arshia Fatima Haq, founder of Discostan - a collective of artists from an imagined federation of states from Beirut to Bangkok via Bombay - this is a rare, unfiltered collection of devotional music ranging from hypnotic solo instrumentals and vocal lamentations to euphoric ensemble qawwalis. Presenting voices that are imperiled in the country's contemporary political landscape - where renowned singers are assassinated in broad daylight and performance spaces are regularly bombed - this record continues Haq's ongoing project of engaging complex and controversial Islamic practices and rituals that operate in resistance to religious orthodoxy.
Arshia Fatima Haq explains, "During my travels, I recorded both well-known musicians who made regular appearances on Pakistani televisions, and unknown, untrained singers who traveled from shrine to shrine with no possessions, intoxicated in the pursuit of the divine. I recorded in intimate living rooms, in crumbling concert halls, and in remote interior areas where I had to travel with a police escort. From the vertiginous falsetto harmonies of men singing in the female gender to give voice to those who carry the wounds of society, to the sparse and piercing a capella deliverances of itinerants, singing in the spaces of shrines where the doves coo in liturgies to the saints buried therein, this is music of 'unbridled bridledness', collapsing the divide between the divine and the profane.
"In masterful, often improvised performances on the harmonium, alghoza, been, and bulbul tarang, these songs unfold into an organic recursion of longing and despair, redeemed by an almost erotic promise of reunion with the divine entity. The singers themselves are 'ishq ke maare' - in the throes of love. Their visionary, intuitive form of devotion is in sharp contrast to the rising tide of mathematical and legalistic approach to faith called Wahhabism seen across the Islamic landscape today. These songs are iconoclastic and anarchic, transcending systems of law and social order, to approach what is truly divine in the rawest possible form."
Features performances by Ustad Aacher and Company, Kalyam Sharif Qawwali Troupe, Meeh Wasaiyo, Fatah Daudpoto, Latif Sarkar, Basheer Haidari and Nazira Bano, Shazia Tarannum, Babu, Sain Juman Shah and Fakirs, Ghulam Arshad, and an unknown singer.