Pakistan’s premier Sufi opera singer Saira Peter captured the hearts of audiences at the Konya International Mystical (Music) Festival in Turkey, where she performed to pay tribute to Maulana Rumi, the great Sufi poet.
The unique colors of Saira’s own Sufi compositions, especially a qawwali of Maulana Rumi’s poetry in Persian and Turkish, dazzled listeners, instantly increasing her fan base, who quickly uploaded her performances to Turkish social media, according to a press release released on Sunday.
British composer Paul Knight from London joined her on stage at the piano, while her husband Stephen Smith provided accompaniment on the harmonium. She sang Sufi and spiritual songs in seven languages (Urdu, Farsi, Turkish, English, French, Latin, Italian), many of which were composed by her, as well as a range of classical Western and Pakistani styles, including her aria recently released ‘Marvi’s Marsiya’ from the upcoming Sufi opera ‘Marvi’s Tears’.
She also sang the kalam of the Sufi poet Shah Abul Latif Bhittai “Morey Mann Main Aas” in Urdu and “Resplendent” in English, the latter being a translation of Latif’s Sindhi poem “Tou Habib, Tou Tabib”. After his 80-minute performance, which ended with a long applause and a standing ovation, a long line of supporters gathered for selfies.
Saira Peter was honored to receive a special shield from Madame Esin Bayru Celebi, a direct descendant of Maulana Rumi and a traditional ‘ney’ (Turkish reed flute) from Rumi from Yasar Sancan, deputy director of the Ministry of Tourism and Konya Culture.
It was fascinating to observe a new form of cultural exchange between Pakistan and Turkey. While it was well known that Pakistani audiences were big fans of Turkish theater, Turkish audiences have now become fans of Pakistani Sufi opera star Saira Peter.
Speaking with the media, Saira Peter expressed his honor to be part of the largest Sufi music gathering in the world and to sing Maulana Rumi’s teaching against materialism, greed and selfishness, to live a lifestyle simple based on the spiritual values of altruism and love, and of drawing closer to God through spiritual song and dance.
She said she now understood why the whole world appreciated Rumi’s teaching – he accepted anyone from any background, welcoming their sincere artistic expression, whatever their faith. She was also delighted to discover the respect of Turkish composers and poets for the iconic Pakistani poet Allama Iqbal, who devoted dozens of poems to Rumi’s opinions and teachings, even making Rumi her spiritual master (“pir”).