From a young age, Shabnam Merali, a Sufi and Qawaal artist from Edmonton, Canada, discovered spirituality in music through ginans — a form of Ismaili devotional literature. Reciting permutations of the word Ali, which held a special significance for her, has now become the hallmark of her singing. It permits a feeling of transcendence — a sense of being lost in the music. The theme of transcendence reverberates among many spiritual musicians.
When asked about how she feels during a performance, Merali responds: “Feelings are tremendously difficult to articulate, especially if they are characteristically transcendent.” She says that once she immersed deep in the music, she feels a freedom from her own self. Her identity merges with the collective; the energy of the audience returns through her singing in a progressively intensifying cycle. Merali emphasises that she must believe in the music, be truly devoted to it, in order for her to touch others.