Pakistan’s first opera singer Saira Peter mesmerize music lovers

Saira Peter performed a variety of genres ranging from Beethoven to Madam Noor Jahan combining Western and Eastern traditions and instruments

Saira Peter, Pakistan’s first opera singer, mesmerized the audience with the delightful fusion of eastern and western music, traditions, and instruments. She brought the unique genre of Sufi opera to the capital in her performance at Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) in Islamabad.

Opera, known as the art form which combines music, singing, drama, poetry and sometimes dances, originated in Italy and soon spread to France, Germany and the rest of Europe. This form of art has been largely absent from local South Asian musical landscape and rarely been experimented in musical scene in Pakistan.

However, the London-based Pakistani singer Sarah Peter has changed this local musical landscape. Peter has combined opera music with the teachings of Sufism to share its richness with the rest of the world.

The musical evening at PNCA started with beautiful tunes and folk songs by Sachu Khan and his team Laila-o- Laila.

Saira began her performance of the night with an English translation of Bhittai. She beautifully rendered popular Sufi Punjabi texts and also presented popular songs like ‘Mere Dholna’, ‘Awaz dey kahan hu’, ‘Khawaja Meray Khawaja’ among other songs.

After performing songs from her latest album Resplendent, Saira sang Celine Dion’s ‘The Heart Will Go On’, which was truly enjoyed by the audience.

She surprised the audience with her powerful voice and vocal range. Saira’s multicultural roots allowed her to perform a variety of genres, ranging from Beethoven to Madam Noor Jahan.

“Tonight’s performance was a treat for music lovers and an educational experience for those interested in Western classical music,” one music lover in the audience said.

Born in Karachi, Saira has lived in London for the last few years. She trained as an operatic singer under Paul Knight, who was a student of English composer Benjamin Britten, a legend in Western classical music. “I am proud to have trained under Paul Knight and think of him as my ustaad,” she said.

The unique genre of Sufi opera performed by Peter showcases her training and love for the western classical tradition of music and her love for Sufi poetry. “Sufism is an important part of the Pakistani culture. Sufi poets such as Bulleh Shah and Shah Abdul Lateef Bhittai have woven beautiful messages of peace and love in their poetry and I wanted to bring this tradition to the West in their own musical language,” she said.

Ms. Saira is also the director of the Noor Jahan Centre in London, which promotes Pakistani music and culture in London.

Director General, PNCA, Jamal Shah speaking the occasion appreciated Sarah’s venture of fusion of Opera and Sufi music. Such initiatives will diversify the musicscape of Pakistan, he added.

Salma Khan
Salma writes on topics ranging from education to technology to business. She can be reached at Twitter and Facebook.

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