'I dreamt of a hand calling me to Baba Bulle Shah's dargah ('shrine'),' he recalls. 'There I met Ustad Sain Raunka Ali of Patiala. My first lessons in the Sufi kalams were under his guidance.' The kalams are verses of poetry redolent with devotional love, which are sung with the passion and power needed to give listeners a chance of actually knowing the mystery of God. With his robes, beads, tightly bound turban and one string ektara lute, Saeen Zahoor delivers kalams by poets like Baba Bhulay Shah or Mian Muhammad Bakhsh, aka 'The Rumi Of Kashmir', with focused and flamboyant joy. Zahoor was born and raised in a rural peasant family and for decades he performed exclusively at dargahs and melas in his native Ojara district of Pakistan.
In 1989 he was invited to the All Pakistan Music Conference to give his first ever performance on a concert stage and, by all accounts, he transported the 2000 audience members present to heights of emotion which were deemed almost dangerously intense. He now tours the world, often accompanied by harmonium and dholak drum side-players, wreaking the same blissful havoc on devotees and newcomers alike. His piercing chiselled features are a regular sight on Pakistani TV and he has been the subject of at least one documentary. Fans of the Sufiana kalams claim that seeing and hearing Sain Zahoor in full flow is the closest anyone alive will get to being in the presence of the the Sufi mystics of yore, like Bulle Shah and Shah Hussain. It's a musical spell that is well nigh universally effective.
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