Music expresses feeling and thought, without language; it was below and before speech, and it is above and beyond all words.
Saieen Zahoor or Saeen Zahur Ahmad (born circa 1937) is a leading Sufi musician from Pakistan. He has spent most of his life singing in Sufi shrines, and didn’t produce a record until 2006, when he was nominated for the BBC World Music awards based on word of mouth. He emerged as the “best BBC voice of the year 2006”, Sain is not his first name but a Sindhi honorific title and is also spelt Saeen or Saiyan, and Zahoor may be spelt Zahur.
For most of his life Zahoor 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 called Tumbi, 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. His typical costume includes embroidered (kurta), beads, tightly bound turban, as well as ghungroos (anklet-bells worn by dancers). 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, which brought him into musical prominence. Subsequently he has emerged as a leading performer in Pakistan, frequently appearing on TV and in concerts. Zahoor has also given concerts in UK, Japan, Ireland, India, Canada and Norway.
Sufi singing is focused on poetry with themes of devotional love, which shares much withPersian 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 Saieen Zahoor’s concerts.
In 2006 Zahoor released an album titled Awazay (“Sounds”) through Matteela Records. In 2007 he helped produce the soundtrack to the Pakistani film Khuda Ke Liye.
He sang an ost in 2011 for West Is West a British comedy-drama film, which is a sequel to the 1999 comedy East Is East. He also acted and appeared in the film.