03/16/2016, Driskill Hotel’s Victorian Room, Austin, TX

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About FACE

FACE, Foundation for Arts Culture and Education, is an organization whose mission is to strengthen, empower, and educate communities through the universal language of arts and through cultural interactions. FACE plays an important role in ensuring education at all levels to empower men and women to create ...

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Ron Kadish

Ecstatic Folk: The Wonders of Sindh Resonate in the Powerful Female Voice of Mai Nimani

The shrine to Rama Pir was hemmed in by the 2010 floods that besieged Pakistan. Despite the chaos, the shrine, a syncretic site dedicated to a Hindu/Sufi hybrid deity, was still hosting its annual festival. Musicians came by boat, often spending days crossing the patchwork of land and water.

Mai Nimani was among them, encouraged by her harmonium player husband. They arrived at the festival, only to be told by organizers to wait. And wait. For days. At last, one of the guests at the shrine, music researcher and artist advocate Umair Jaffar, insisted she be allowed to perform.

It proved to be a turning point in the female musician’s life: When she opened her mouth, everyone sat in awe.

Audiences at SXSW 2016 stand to have the same experience when Mai Nimani has her US debut as part of the FACE Pakistan Showcase at the Driskill’s Victorian Room on Wednesday, March 16 at 8 PM.

Mai Nimani is a young tradition bearer from the desert region of Sindh, with a raw, intense, lush voice that renders beloved Sindhi songs with persuasive heart. Her repertoire captures old songs, the mix of secular and Sufi pieces popular at local festivals and weddings.

From a musical family, Nimani is one of the first folk artists from her region to gain a wider national Pakistani, and now international, audience. She went from playing at very local events to slots at major festivals in Islamabad and Karachi, where she wowed audiences with her charismatic yet straightforward performances.

Nimani has been encouraged by her relatives to pursue music. Her husband and brother-in-law perform with her, supporting her with swirling harmonium and rolling percussion. Her voice dips into a velvety contralto, only to leap up moments later into a soaring call. Improvised ornaments rise and fall, enhancing the treasured melodies, with spot-on drum accents. For certain songs, Nimani can’t contain herself, leaping to her feet and urging her listeners to get deep into the music.

It all unites to engage and elevate, with a simple presentation suggesting centuries of musical and poetic complexity. Nimani and her band point to the often overlooked riches of Sindh’s deserts: Their syncretic Sufi wonders. Nimani’s songs reveal a side of Pakistan few outside the region have experienced. Until now.

This showcase is a project of FACE Foundation for Arts Culture and Education, an Islamabad-based organization whose mission is to strengthen, empower, and educate communities through the universal language of arts and through cultural interactions. Support comes from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy, Islamabad.

Dispatch Details

Concert Start Time:
8:00 PM
Driskill Hotel’s Victorian Room
Venue City, State:
Austin, TX
Event Notes:
FACE Pakistan Showcase