It's at times difficult to differentiate Sufi devotional music from Ghazals -- both rely on an eloquent rendition of Urdu poetry in praise of a beloved, though in the case of devotional music the same expressions could refer to the divinity. On the very extremes of these seemingly related styles, devotional genres like Qawwali purport the high intensity of recital facilitated by the inclusion of a group of musicians who repeats the key verses, and heavy percussion including hand clapping. Ghazals, on the other hand, are less exaggerated and in a light classical style; yet there has been an explosion of artists who easily accommodate the two styles in their works, especially in Pakistan. This overlap has led to the proliferation of the subgenre Kafi, epitomized by Abida Parveen. It's easy to appreciate and identify this genre in her style which has a numbed intensity and is very much straight pitched. Raqs-E-Bismil ("Dance of the Wounded") holds a special significance in Parveen's career. Firstly, a release through the major record label from India confirmed wider reach in the Indian subcontinent as opposed to earlier, haphazardly released albums. Secondly, rather than dedicating an album to one particular poet; as Parveen had done quite frequently earlier; Raqs-E-Bismil witnesses Parveen singing to the poetry of various poets. With three songs on the word by Hazarat Shah Niaz and one each by poets Asghar Gondvi ("Zaahid Ne"), Maulana Hasrat Mohani ("Roshan Jamal-E-Yaar"), Hazrat Zaheen Shah Taaji ("Ji Chahe"), and Jigar Moradbadi ("Jalwa Ba Qadra"), Parveen makes sure to pick her favorite poetry for this album. More importantly, due to the seemingly important stature of this release, she sticks to the Kafi genre of singing without straying to other extremes and thus brings out an album that displays her at her very best.
by Bhasker Gupta