Main Stage

Sanam Marvi’s Powerful Evening of Sufi Song

On the evening of Sunday, March 26, Sanders Theatre resounded with the powerful voice of Sanam Marvi, joined by Kashif Ali on tabla, Imran Ali on harmonium, Shahid Ali on sitar, Noor Bux on dholak, and guest artist Arieb Azhar on vocals and guitar. Born in 1986 in the city of Hyderabad in the province of Sindh in Pakistan, Sanam Marvi is one of Pakistan’s leading performers of Sufi music. Sufism is often described as the mystical side of Islam, but as Arieb Azhar noted in his introduction of Ms. Marvi on Sunday evening, Sufis themselves believe that Sufism expresses the essence of all religions, reaching out for a direct connection with the divine life force, in service to all humanity.

Pakistan has a long tradition of Sufi poet-saints, many of whom Ms. Marvi honored in Sunday evening’s performance, with a soaring voice that filled Sanders Theatre with power, vulnerability, and reverence, accompanied by the driving rhythms of the tabla and dholak and masterful accompaniment on sitar and harmonium. Mr. Azhar joined for the final two songs, ending with a rousing performance of Mast Qalandar, Pakistan’s most widely sung Sufi song.

Sanam Marvi and her ensemble are on tour as part of Center Stage, a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Center Stage Pakistan is made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, and the Henry Luce Foundation. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc.

Sanam Marvi’s engagement in Boston was a co-presentation by Celebrity Series of Boston and World Music/CRASHarts. Scroll below to see scenes from evening, captured by Celebrity Series photographer Robert Torres.

Photos by Robert Torres


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