Shumaila Hemani takes the listener on a soul-searching journey through time with her transcendent, poetic epic Primordial Covenant — showcasing today on Tinnitist.
Taken from the recent Women in Music Canada Honour Roll recipient and Cultural Diversity Award winner’s upcoming second album Kashf (unveiling), Primordial Covenant is based on a poem by Hemani that was published in Alberta’s feminist magazine New Forum (2021) and nominated for the Alberta Magazine Awards in Poetry (2022).
“Primordial Covenant is an anthem for trans-cultural Canada, as it strives for greater equity, diversity, and inclusion while integrating the multiple beliefs and faith practices in its cultural life,” says Hemani.
Premiered at Calgary’s Arts Commons in June with James Watson accompanying on violin, this piece was again performed for the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra in Calgary in late June with Sujeev Chohan on tabla.
This boundary-pushing composition is inspired by the Quranic story of the creation. The phrase “allastu bi rabbiku” refers to the primordial covenant that the human soul made with the Creator before entering the body. This Arabic phrase is referenced in Sufi poetry of South Asia, particularly the Sindhi verses of the 18th-century poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, whose book Shah jo Risalo is considered Quran in Sindhi by the Muslims and Gita by the Hindus.
“I invite choirs and symphony orchestras across Europe and North America to perform this piece in solidarity with the Muslims and with the understanding that Quran and its enriched history have a central value for the Muslims and also have a sanctified place in a multi-cultural society,” Hermani says.
Pushing boundaries of genre and tradition by drawing from Hindustani art music of khayal, the Middle Eastern melodic maqam Hijaz, and Western tradition for its chromatic chord structure, this art song is a response to the cataclysmic times of today that beg for a new language for composing art song to reinstate the role of music as a catalyst for social change.
Hemani was nominated in the Alberta’s Artist Ambassador short list and serves as an artist in residence at the International Center of Arts for Social Change and Trico Changemakers Studio. She is also an alumnus in Creative Climate Leadership (2023), delivered the keynote address at the University of Hawaii’s Climate Change and South Asia conference (2023), and spoke at the first Music Climate Summit in Toronto (2022).
Watch the video for Primordial Covenant above, hear more from Shumaila Hemani below, and find her at her website.