Pakistan’s first Sufi opera singer, Saira Peter on Monday performed at a Sham-i-Mausiqi at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) and sang in many styles ranging from songs by Beethoven to those of Madam Noor Jehan.
Wearing a red gown and with a big smile on her face, Saira sang in many languages including English, Latin, Urdu, Punjabi and Siraiki.
She started with a Sufi opera which was an English translation of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s work, was titled ‘Sometimes’ and was from her album Resplendent.
She sang a Latin Sufi song as well which she said was about the good and bad that happens in our lives.
Ms Peter brought the unique genre of Sufi opera to Islamabad for the third time with her music director Steven Smith and was accompanied by a group of local musicians including Sajjad Sufi, Salman Adil, Jeeway Laal, Nazaka Ali and Zahid Ali, who were playing the tabla, flute, dholak, the harmonium and keyboard respectively.
After her Sufi opera songs, she switched to Punjabi and Urdu songs sung by Noor Jehan including ‘Lat Uljhi’, ‘Chan Diya Totya’ and ‘Chandni Raatein’. Her performances included the poetry of Hazrat Baba Buleh Shah as well.
She told the audience she is disseminating Pakistani culture of love, peace and tolerance through Sufi poetry.
“I am promoting a soft image of Pakistan in the West in their singing style and in their language. I learnt a lot from listening to Noor Jehan, Roshan Ara and Ustaad Ghulam Ali when I was a child,” she said.
Ms Peter added that she was working on her second album based on the poems of Hazrat Baba Buleh Shah and Hazrat Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai.
Aqsa Tariq, a member of the audience, told Dawn this was her first time listening to opera and that she had enjoyed the experience despite the language barrier.
“Her voice has a unique mystical quality and a unique combination of eastern and western classical styles in her music,” she said.