Shumaila Hemani received her Ph.D. in Music from the University of Alberta and is an expert in ethnomusicology with an emphasis on religion. She crosses gender boundaries while singing Pakistani songs of Muslim heritage which are typically performed by men. Her upcoming album is based around the concept of supplication and saint worship. These practices are braced by many religious cultures, yet still resisted by mainstream orthodoxies who deem them as superstitious and illegitimate. Her musical poetry works to decolonize intercultural conversations by resisting cultural essentialism and binary mindsets.
Hemani’s multi-lingual releases: Living with Purpose/Alastu Bi-Rabbikum came #1 on the Ethnocloud world music charts for the month of January. The reviews of her show at the Banff Arts Centre in Calgary Herald (2015) and the Edmonton Journal (2016) describe her music as “mesmerizing,” and “emotionally nerve-striking,” carrying “vocal virtuosity” and “expressing radically different inner existential visions”. Her upcoming music album Mannat (italics) (a prayer/a wish) combines four different styles of singing Sufi Poetry in Sind with the aim to immerse the listener in contemplations of love and self-healing that empowers them in resisting systemic oppression and chaos of a changing world. The sounds of Sufi poetry are an affirmation of life and existence and it serves to bring one closer to one’s inner truth surpassing any kind of fear and social judgements.
Hemani’s research and performance in Islamic mystical poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai have resulted in cross-cultural lecture demonstrations, performances and electroacoustic compositions in North America and Pakistan. Again, academic or music focus? Recent performances? Frequent performances? Her research and performance accomplishments have been honoured by several awards including First Prize Award (Society for Ethnomusicology) and the Cultural Diversity Award (2015), Edmonton Arts Council.
“Hemani’s piece struck a nerve in me for its paradoxical robustness, its vocal virtuosity, the harmonic texture contained in her solo line, and the sense of working out an inner grief by building emotional power and inexorable drive right up to the final note. It ended the first half with a bang and hardly a whimper.”Stephan Bonfield, The Calgary Herald
From the shrines of rural Pakistan to the theatres of urban Edmonton, Shumaila Hemani’s performance of traditional Sufi Islamic poetry has mesmerized many. “I think this style of singing is really very powerful and brings forward a person’s true self and connects with other people’s deepest selves. I have no other way of explaining what I encounter through my musical performances,” Hemani said.” (Samantha McKay, Edmonton Journal)