Saieen Zahoor Live in Mississauga – An Unforgettable & Astonishing Experience

The following is a guest post written by Nazeeha Khokhar (commonly known as Atiffan1), a Canadian Pakistani who has never been to Pakistan yet the number of Pakistani songs in her iPod outnumbers the number of other international songs.

Me (Nazeeha): I really wanna go see this singer live!
Indian Friend: Which singer?
Me: Uhmmm, I don’t think you know him, he’s this Pakistani singer, he’s an old man.
Indian Friend: Rahat?
Me: No! Do you know about Coke Studio?
Indian Friend: No.
Me: Okay then you don’t know him.

I knew nothing about him, I had only seen him perform in Coke Studio yet I was so excited to see him perform live in front of my eyes. I was overjoyed when my friend said that I could meet him and get a picture with him. He wore a kussa, a fancy kurta, mehndi on his fingernails, some funky jewelry and heavy kaajal in his eyes. Honestly speaking, he looked scary. I stared at him for a good five minutes, there were several thoughts running through my mind, “he’s a crack head”, “he’s so weird”, “he’s so cool”. At first I thought perhaps he didn’t like taking pictures as he’s a bit old and different, not your typical celebrity. But then a guy in front of me took a picture with him, he was so chill about it, no aker (attitude) whatsoever, and then he said to me Aao (come) (for a picture), I said Salam Saieen to him and he replied Salam. I got a picture with him and thanked him with Shukriya Saieen and he replied Thank youuuu (the pronunciation for the you extended). I thought that was cute.

I was so damn excited, more excited than I was after meeting Atif Aslam. I was so happy that I just met a legendary singer, this was surely one experience that I’d share with my kids in the future. I called my mom and told her, I texted my dad and told him. Now I just couldn’t wait for his performance. If you haven’t already guessed by now, who the “he” whom I am referring to is, he is Saieen Zahoor Ahmed. Who am I? I am a Canadian Pakistani who has never been to Pakistan yet the number of Pakistani songs in my iPod outnumbers the number of white songs. Getting back to the concert, I waited 3 hours, Saieen’s performance was initially scheduled for 5:30 but was pushed back as Shafqat Amanat Ali could not be there due to visa issues. The seats were starting to fill up, most of the audience did not know who Saieen was nor were they there to see him. The majority was looking forward to the bollywood dance show which was the last performance of the night. A Pakistani lady sitting behind me said “pata naye kaunsa saieen hai yeh?” and her daughter around my age said to her “apko naye pata, apnay Coke Studio he naye dekha” I turned around and smiled at the girl, clearly she was aware of this legendary singer through Coke Studio. The clock was ticking; I was supposed to be at a daawat for 7 o’clock, there was no sign of Saieen hitting stage any time soon. I was panicking, I wanted to see this performance so badly! Ugh! But then I saw people setting up the platform on which the tabla musicians will sit, there was hope.

After a wonderful introduction by the manager of PIA, Saieen Zahoor was on stage! Now added to his wardrobe, were his gungroos, and in his hand he held his toomba. He started with a Bismillah and began with Allah Hoo. It was amazing. The best part was when he spun around with his toomba. By the next song my father joined me in the concert, Aja Yaar was mesmerizing. I was so fascinated by Saieen’s performance. An Indian man asked my dad about Saieen, he asked if he was famous in Pakistan, my dad responded “yes he is very talented, he’s illiterate but his memory is so great, he is God-gifted”. I was enjoying Saieen’s performance so much. I was feeling the music, but unfortunately I had to leave, as I left the venue Saieen started with one of my favourites Aik Alif. We huddled in the parking lot and my mom said “yeh to sunnay wala tha”, I was kind of sad that I had to leave after 3 songs but that was alright because those 3 songs meant a lot to me. We met another Indian lady, she asked us “Yeh kaun hai? Maynay sunna hai thora sa, bahoot acha laga mujhay”. At that moment I felt proud, proud that my roots were Pakistani and that Pakistan has such talent and culture and that I am associated with it. As we left, we put down the car windows so we could hear more of Saieen. Saaien’s vocals were blasting in the heart of the city of Missisauga. It was an unforgettable and astonishing experience. He is a man of true culture. He is a Pakistani. He is Saieen Zahoor Ahmed.

Two things that I got out of this concert:

1) Pakistan has so much culture and talent that is being wasted. We need to appreciate our folk singers, not just folk singers but all of our singers. More awareness must be created. It’s funny that the teenage girl knew who Saieen Zahoor was but her mother had no idea. I must be thankful to Coke Studio, if it weren’t for Coke Studio I wouldn’t have known who Saieen Zahoor was nor would I have attended that concert and made such realizations today. Coke Studio is not enough.

2) Saieen Zahoor is a true star, and no doubt an inspiration. An inspiration to appreciate and retain Pakistani culture. I have so much respect for this man after meeting him and seeing him perform. Of the 3 Atif Aslam concerts that I have attended, I don’t think any number of Atif Aslam concerts will ever be able to equate to the 3 song performance of Saieen Zahoor which I witnessed on July 9th 2011.