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Published on 27 Jul 2008 | over 8 years ago

Pakistani Street Sufi singer Sain Zahoor sings at BBC World Music Awards Ceremony after receiving Award

Sain Zahoor or Saeen Zahur Ahmad (Urdu: سائیں ظہور) (b. around 1945) is a leading Sufi musician from Pakistan. He spent his life singing in the Sufi shrines, and had not cut a record until 2006, when he was nominated for the BBC World Music awards based on word of mouth[2]. He emerged as the "best BBC voice of the year 2006"[3], an award that had earlier recognized other prominent Sufi singers such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Abida Parveen. Sain is not his first name but an honorific and is also spelt Saeen or Saiyan, and Zahoor may be spelt Zahur.

Born in the Okara/Sahiwal region in the province of Punjab (Pakistan), Zahoor was the youngest in a rural peasant family. He is said to have started singing at the age of five,[3] and from that early age, he had dreamt of a hand beckoning him towards a shrine. He left home at the age of thirteen, roaming the Sufi shrines of Sind, Punjab and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, making a living through singing. Eventually, Sain was walking past a small shrine in the south Punjab town of Uch Sharif (known for its Sufi traditions), when "someone waved at me with his hand, inviting me in, and I suddenly realised that it was this hand which I saw in my dream."[4]

For some time, he studied music under Ustad Sain Raunka Ali of Patiala Gharana, whom he met at Baba Bulleh Shah's dargah (shrine), and who became his first guru for Sufi kalams (verses). Sain also learned music from Uch Sharif based musicians Ustad Ronaq Ali and Sain Marna.

Sain cannot read or write but is known for his memory of song lyrics; mostly he sings compositions of the major Sufi poets, Bulleh Shah, Mullah Shah Badakhshi, Muhammad Buksh, and others.

Born in the Okara/Sahiwal region in the province of Punjab (Pakistan), Zahoor was the youngest in a rural peasant family. He is said to have started singing at the age of five,[3] and from that early age, he had dreamt of a hand beckoning him towards a shrine. He left home at the age of thirteen, roaming the Sufi shrines of Sind, Punjab and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, making a living through singing. Eventually, Sain was walking past a small shrine in the south Punjab town of Uch Sharif (known for its Sufi traditions), when "someone waved at me with his hand, inviting me in, and I suddenly realised that it was this hand which I saw in my dream."[4]

For some time, he studied music under Ustad Sain Raunka Ali of Patiala Gharana, whom he met at Baba Bulleh Shah's dargah (shrine), and who became his first guru for Sufi kalams (verses). Sain also learned music from Uch Sharif based musicians Ustad Ronaq Ali and Sain Marna.

Sain cannot read or write but is known for his memory of song lyrics; mostly he sings compositions of the major Sufi poets, Bulleh Shah, Mullah Shah Badakhshi, Muhammad Buksh, and others.

All his life, Sain Zahoor has performed mainly in dargahs (Sufi tombs/shrines) and festivals, and in the streets. He adopted the folk instrument Ektara (ek= one, tar = string), in its three-stringed version, as his main instrument. Like some traditions of Sufi music, he has a passionate, high-energy style of singing, often dancing in a frenzied style with the tassels on his instrument whirling around him (see his performance on YouTube[5]). Dressed in embroidered (kurta), beads, tightly bound turban, as well as ghungroos (anklet-bells worn by dancers), Sain Zahoor cuts an impressive figure. His voice has an earthy tone, almost cracking at the edges, but capable of a wide vocal and emotional range.

In 1989 he performed on a concert stage for the first time at the All Pakistan Music Conference[3], which brought him into musical prominence. Subsequently he has emerged as a leading performer in Pakistan, frequently appearing on TV and in concerts attended by President General Pervez Musharraf[2]. Zahoor has also given concerts in UK, Japan[6], and India.[citation needed]

Sufi singing is focused on poetry with themes of devotional love, which shares much with Persian mystic poets like Rumi and with other South Asian traditions such as the Bhakti cult. Sufi traditions highlight a softer, multi-cultural aspect of Islam, and are seen as a countering "the extremism of the mullahs who use the mosques to spread ill-will" against other cultural groups, according to some organizers of Sain Zahoor's concerts[2].

In 2006 Sain had a record out (Awazay, sounds) with Matteela Records[4]. In 2007 he helped produce the soundtrack to the Pakistani film Khuda Ke Liye.

Source: Wikipedia

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