She is considered one of the most prominent contemporary exponents of the great ghazal and kafi musical styles from the Indian subcontinent. Rooted in the intense encounter between sensitivity and spirituality that is Sufism. She never ceases to sing her fiery love for the Divine. The earliest memories of her childhood are all linked to her passion for music and her desire to sing. Born in 1954 in Larkana, Sindh into a family tat maintains close associations with the shrines of Sufi saints. She was imparted her initial training in the art of music from her father, Ustad Ghulam Haider, and later from Ustad Salamat Ali Khan of Sham Chorasia gharana. Her father, whom she refers to as reverently as Baba Sain, was also a singer and had his own small music school where he taught only male pupils. He was devoted to the Sufi poets and that is from where Abida gets her devotional inspiration. For her the Sufi poets of Sindh and Punjab are the ones who speak of the inner truths of the self and in their poetry, where she finds solace and peace. As she was growing up, Abida attended her father’s music school and that was where her foundation in music was laid.
Hyderabad Radio first introduced her in 1977. She is today the most popular and well-known folk and ghazal singer of Pakistan who breathed a new life into ghazal and semi-classical music. She holds an audience of thousands spellbound. Her appearance is a complete reverse of many other stage performers. She begins each number as solemnly as the previous one as the evening progresses, sinking deeper and deeper into her kafi’s and Sufiana kalam of the mystic poets. She is a woman of very few words and asks to be judged only by her music. This folk phenomenon, called Abida Parveen, is deeply religious and profoundly humble.
Abida Parveen is the finest singer of ghazal, geet and sindhi, seraiki and punjabi kafees. “While khayal and thumri became a part of her childhood training, her effective rendering of folk and traditional music with great sophistication and without losing the basic characteristics of the regional music of sindh has made her a versatile singer.”
Her command of kafi of sufi poets such as Hazrat Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Hazrat Lal Shabaz Qalandar, Hazrat Sacchal Sarmast from sindh, and Hazrat Baba Bulhe Shah, Hazrat Khawja Farid Ganje Shakar, Hazrat Sultan Bahu, Hazrat Mian Muhammad Buksh, Hazrat Ghulam Farid, Hazrat Pir Mehr Ali Shah and Hazrat Shah Hussain from pujab embellishes her versatility. Apart from sufis of Pakistan, Parveen also sings mystic poetry of the Asian Indian subcontinent, which include sufis such as Hazra Amir Khusrau, Hazrat Nizamudin Auliya, Hazrat Kutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti and Hazrat Moulana Jalaluddin Roomi from Turkey.
Professor G.M. Mekhri of Sind University has rightly said that, “Abida Parveen is the spiritual daughter of Great Sufi Saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. She is the truly blessed voice.” Abida has recorded all the poetry of Hazrat Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, an 18th century poet and composer who blended folk music and classical raga in a style known as kafi from his book called “Shah jo Risalo” according to their respective “Raags” which were also laid down by him.
She has performed almost in all parts of the world and performed before international audiences and placed the name of the country high up I the field of music. Abida Parveen performed in Chicago in 1988. Her fist performance was based on classical and semi-classical art, the second was comprised of ghazals of prominent poets and the third rested on folk singing and different varieties of sindhi music. Her performance was recorded by the renowned organization Hazrat Amir Khusrau Society of Art and Culture, which issued a long play recording of her renderings. After that, she performed in July of 1989 for three hours in a Wembly conference in London and was recorded by the BBC for a one hour telecast.
Recently, Abida with her magical voice created a mystical environment in the Fez Festival held in Fez, Morocco in June, where she entranced an audience of 10,000. She performed at Royal Festival Hall in London on September 15, 2001 and captured the hearts of listeners.