LAHORE: “They say if something is taken away from you, God gives you something extraordinary in return. I think it’s God’s karishma (miracle) that I have achieved this status,” says visually impaired classical singer Aliya Rasheed. The singer, who has mastered dhrupad singing, believes that her strong hearing is a gift from God and a solid compensation for her weakness in sight. “While learning music, I realised that I could pick up sounds in just one or two tries.”
Whenever Rasheed performs in front of an audience, she cannot see her fans’ faces or the smiles pasted on them, but she can hear the applause that her inspiring performance receives. “Usually when artists begin to perform, they observe the crowd and ambience of the venue. I may not be able to look around, but my sixth sense (my hearing) helps me analyse how people are responding to my music,” she states. Her ability to pick up sounds quickly helped her learn difficult surs and adopt a vocal range faster than an average music student usually can.
Raised in the UAE, Rasheed moved back to Pakistan in 1986 and completed her intermediate studies from a college in Iqbal Town, Lahore. Her penchant for singing soon gave her the honour of leading her school choir. Rasheed’s big break, however, came when she met lawyer and musicologist Raza Kazim through a family friend in 1999. Kazim, who by then had a flourishing art institute, asked Rasheed to record a few songs in her signature style and after that there was no looking back for this brave singer.
Later in 2001, Kazim sponsored Rasheed to study with Dhrupad Maestros Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha at the Dhrupad Institute in Bhopal for four years. The experience made her excel in Dhrupad singing, which is considered one of the more difficult vocal traditions from the family of classical music.
Rasheed practises every morning at five before getting ready for her daily routine which includes vocal training at the National College of Arts (NCA) as well as conducting music classes at the Sajan Nagar Trust School.
Currently, she is working on moulding Sufi poetry into Dhrupad form. “It’s something we have been working on because I always feel that music needs to evolve,” says the singer.
Rasheed has plans to record an album in January, but she is not quite sure about the availability of finance as yet. She is also planning a tour to the US and India in 2012.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2012.