Sain Zahoor Part One
Thanks to the efforts of Bradistan University, we were recently blessed with the presence of the Pakistani Sufi singer Sain Zahoor. The University had organised a special concert and flew Sain and his four musicians into the UK for their only UK appearance.
Born in the Punjab region of Pakistan almost 70 years ago, Sain Zahoor has spent almost his whole life singing in religious shrines. He finally gained some recognition in Pakistan in the late 1980s but it was in 2006 when he was nominated for a BBC world music award that he finally began to get known outside the country.
The band spent three days in Bradistan and I was lucky to not only get to meet him but also able to do a photoshoot as well. It was a perfect hors d'oeuvres to the wonderful concert that followed later in the day.
Sain Zahoor is a striking figure, clad in an all-black shalwar kameez, with a king's ransom of brightly coloured jewellery hanging from his neck. His face is heavily-creased, but despite his advancing years his kohl-lined eyes are full of life. Atop his head is a black turban but whisps of long, black hair can be seen protruding from the back. He is very humble and friendly, and even though we cannot communicate except through an interpreter, you cannot fail to notice his warmth and spiritual presence. Charisma would not be a suitably accurate word to use for such a person, his presence goes beyond that.
The photoshoot was simple to do as Sain was an easy subject to work with. He sat quietly, playing with his three-stringed ektara and no ego was evident at all. To say his face is photogenic is an enormous understatement and it was a real pleasure to be able to photograph such an important musical figure. The only issues I had to deal with were the uninspiring location and the wrong time of day (mid-afternoon). I tried to find some shady areas which wasn't easy as the sun was coming out and going in with alarming regularity. Having said that, I ended up being very pleased with the shots that I got. I was also able to photograph at the soundcheck.
The concert itself was held in the Atrium, which is a very attractive area of the University. Unfortunately, with it being a tall structure it meant that the acoustics were not great (the sound of the ektara for example, was lost throughout the performance). On the positive side, the venue is still small and intimate enough to feel close to the performers.
Sain's musicians are all extremely gifted and he was backed by Riyasat Ali and Muhammad Mushtaq, both on harmonium. I had never witnessed two harmoniums together before and it created a lusher sound, with both musicians taking it in turns to play the melody lines. Nazir Ali played tabla and Shaukat Ali was on dholak. Extra percussion was added from the percussion tied around Sain's ankles.
Nothing could prepare you for the experience when Sain finally opens his mouth to sing. His voice has been described as "magical" and "mystical" and both descriptions would be correct. The sheer power is immense and you cannot fail to be moved by what you hear.
There followed around 100 minutes of the most delightful and beautiful Pakistani Sufi songs. The opener "Allah Hoo" was the most well-known of the pieces performed and I found the first few tracks absolutely musically gorgeous. Being there to witness this concert was truly something special.
One final remark - if you think Sain Zahoor and his band would be tired after their long flight and concert, after they left the venue they went to a local restaurant for something to eat. Then, after they had eaten, they played throughout the night for the people present. Could you imagine any western pop star doing that?
Here are the first series of photographs and more will follow tomorrow. I would like to extend my thanks to Mark, Rachel and Alison at Bradistan University for making it possible for me to take these shots.
Article Source [wicca.com]