Reclaiming Pakistan’s soul

By Rizwan Qureshi

The Sufi Council was formed in October 2006 with the aim of popularizing pristine Sufi music and disseminating Sufi thought among


In a dream Sain Zahoor saw a hand beckoning him to a shrine. He could not shake off the dream and eventually at the age of 13 left home traipsing from one Sufi shrine to the next. At Uchh he recognized the shrine of his dreams and stayed there, spending his days learning Sufi music and singing. Sain is unlettered, but has memorized hundreds of Punjabi Sufi songs by sketching images on paper. When he started singing at the age of five, his first lessons were in the Sufi kalams (verses of devotional spiritual love). Now nearly sixty, he himself looks like a Sufi saint when he comes onstage clad in long kurta and tightly bound turban with beads dangling down his neck and ghungroos – (bells) tied to his ankles. His is such a compelling presence onstage and so close to what a Sufi really looks like, that Sain Zahoor is adorned on our cover. Playing the centuries old three-string lute,he delivers kalams of Sufi poets like Baba Bullay Shah, Shah Hussain and Mian Muhammad Bakhsh with ecstatic joy and intensity which ends up in a dhamal – a frenzied dance. His first onstage performance only came in 1989 when he was invited to the All Pakistan Music Conference. In 2006 he received the award for the best singer in the Asia-Pacific category at the BBC World Music Festival.

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