On the same weekend that Chopra undertakes his 65-hour art marathon, the world-renowned Pakistani singer Abida Parveen makes a rare British performance at Manchester International Festival. Born in 1954, she’s widely regarded as one of the best ghazal singers of recent times.
She specialises in Sufi devotional music and, even if you are not a believer, it’s impossible not to be swept away by the power of music when you hear her. Listening to Parveen live is an emotional, transformative experience, and she has a fan in Icelandic pop singer Björk, who noted her “gorgeous voice”.
As well as a performance of ghazals and khafis, she will also take part in Sir John Tavener’s evening of new and rarely performed spiritual work. The idea of the Manchester International Festival is that it commissions new material rather than just invites artists who happen to be on tour. Here, Parveen is the special guest of the Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir, formed from faith communities across Manchester, who will perform Tavener’s Mahamatar, set to Werner Herzog’s short film Pilgrimage.
And if all that makes Parveen sound impossibly serious, there is a fun-loving side to her, too. Last year she was one of the three permanent jury members on the television talent show Sur Kshetra, in which teams from Pakistan and India battled – or perhaps more delicately, sang – against each other, with the final held in Dubai.
The Manchester International Festival runs until July 21. Abida Parveen performs on Saturday, at 7.30pm at Bridgewater Hall; John Tavener performs on Sunday, at 7.30pm at Bridgewater Hall. For more information, go to www.mif.co.uk
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