The Sufi Magic of Sain Zahoor


Birmingham Stage Brought Alive by The Spiritual Majesty of A Sufi Great

Sain Zahoor, world-renowned Sufi wandering minstrel from Pakistan, brought Birmingham’s Symphony Hall alive with his incredible vocal style in a night of entertainment, bringing to the stage the soul of Pakistan’s popular street culture. The Asian Today was present at his debut performance at the Symphony Hall on Wednesday 30th September.

Having devoted his life to singing at shrines through which he gained a cult following, Sain Zahoor is a true original. He sings surprisingly radical lyrics in a voice colourful and full of raw emotion and energy. His unique way of singing sounds fresh and original, completely unlike most of the so-called Sufi songs of today’s generation, which feature the same composition and have nothing much unique or outstanding about them.

On the evening, the internationally recognised leader of Sufi street music was accompanied by his small five-piece ensemble, who brought to the performance the rich cultural and Islamic tradition of Sufi music with their flute, harmonium, table and dholas drums. The audience’s attention was captured the moment he stepped foot on the stage, dressed in bright colours and with his Tumbi in his hand, hung low with colourful tassels.

His presence was self-assured and, at the same time, comforting and his voice, capable of running goosebumps along a listener’s arms, rang out as he began the night with his most famous song, the world-renowned Okhay Painde. He then proceeded to pluck songs from the Sufi folklore of the past to spiritually uplift the audience, who were entranced by his incredible performance, mesmerised by his lyrics and hypnotising flow. His repertoire on the night mostly consisted of compositions of the major Sufi poets, with his singing focused on themes of devotional love commonplace in the poetry of mystics like Rumi.

Every once in a while in the chorus of a song, the Sain burst into rapturous dance, spinning around and dancing in a frenzied style. The high-energy dance involved moving his Tumbi round in circles with the colourful tassels of the instrument whirling around him. This, paired with the bright beads and jingling anklet-bells, ensured his performance was exhilarating to a fault, intense with emotional charge.

On the night, the Sain cut a truly charismatic figure – one of a most authentic holy man – and never failed to leave a remarkable impression. Through his performance, singing with the traditional passion and power that is commonplace in sufiana kalams, the Sain afforded his audience an opportunity to experience the mysteries of God.

I’ve heard fans claim that ‘seeing and hearing Sain Zahoor in full flow is the closest anyone alive will get to being in the presence of the Sufi mystics of yore’, and this has never rang more true than at the Symphony Hall that night, in the majestic presence of this great Sufi singer.


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