Contemporary Sufi Singers You Need To Listen To

Abida Parveen | © Tore Urnes/WikiCommons
Abida Parveen | © Tore Urnes/WikiCommons
Photo of Sridevi Nambiar
11 November 2016

Earlier, we brought you an introductory guide to Sufi music in the Indian subcontinent. We now bring you a list of some of the most renowned contemporary Sufi musicians you should know. With their unique musical renditions of poetry by great Sufi saints from centuries past, these singers grace the musical scene in the Indian subcontinent like few others can.

Abida Parveen

Dubbed ‘The Queen of Sufi Music,’ this Pakistani Sufi singer sings in Urdu, Sindhi, Saraiki, Punjabi and Persian. Considered to be one of the world’s greatest mystic singers, Parveen has been performing since the early 1970s. Known worldwide for her musical renditions of poetry by Sufi saints and poets, including the likes of Amir Khusro, Bulleh Shah and more. In 2012, she was awarded the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Pakistan’s second highest civilian award, for her musical contributions.

Wadali Brothers

Ustad Puran Chand Wadali and Pyarelal Wadali, from a small village near Amritsar, Punjab, have been singing the spiritual messages of Sufi saints for over three decades. However, they didn’t always have a musical inclination. Prior to becoming Sufi singers, Puran Chand used to be a local wrestler, while younger brother Pyarelal used to dress as Hindu deity Krishna in the village’s Raas Leela (re-enactment of the story of Krishna). In the tradition of Sufism, they consider themselves to be a medium through which the messages and wisdom of great saints can be passed on to others. Besides international fandom and respect, they’ve also won a Padma Shri (India’s fourth highest civilian award), which was awarded to Puran Chand Wadali by the Government of India.

Saieen Zahoor

Though this legendary singer from Pakistan is said to have started singing at the age of five, he didn’t produce a record until almost half a century later, in 2006. He sang primarily in Sufi shrines and on the streets, having left home at the age of ten to roam through the provinces of Sindh and Punjab in Pakistan. He is known mostly for singing poems by Sufi poets such as Bulleh Shah, Shah Badakhshi and Muhammad Qadiri. His first album, Awazay, was released in 2006, following which he appeared on live music shows, such as Coke Studio Pakistan, and worked on film soundtracks, including that of a Bollywood film, Mirzya (2016).

Zila Khan

One of India’s most well known contemporary Sufi and classical singer, Zila Khan was one of the few artists to be featured in the ‘Incredible India’ advertisement campaign by India’s Ministry of Tourism, and is also regularly invited to perform at Presidential and Prime Ministerial level receptions held by the Indian Government. Khan comes from a musical family, with her father, Ustad Vilayat Khan, being one of the country’s most celebrated sitarists and one of the pioneer musicians who introduced Indian classical music to the rest of the world. Even her name was taken by her father from the composition ‘Zila Kaafi’ by thirteenth-century Sufi poet Amir Khusrau.