Asia & Pacific Award Winner
East Pakistan Sky on Glitterbeat Records
Naseeruddin Saami is the last known surviving practitioner of a classical vocal style that has its roots in the 13th-century and predates the better-known multi-voiced style of mystical Sufi music known as qawwali. A performer of khayal, his speciality lies in singing the original form as it was performed at the time of its inception, making him a master surti singer (surti roughly translates as ‘microtone’).
Virtually unknown until producer Ian Brennan recorded him for Glitterbeat’s Hidden Musics series, he was 75 when his first revelatory album God is Not a Terrorist (2019) was recorded, live and unmediated on the rooftop of Saami’s Karachi home. It was followed by Pakistan is for the Peaceful (2020) and East Pakistan Sky (a Top of the World in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue, #174) completed an impressive hat-trick in 2021. Accompanied by his sons, all three albums illustrate his fine control of vocal ornamentation and convey a deep sense of spirituality. “I want to gain peace through music and then share that peaceful experience with the world,” Saami told Songlines last year. “The music I’m associated with is food for the soul. It is pure and spiritual.” As well as being deeply rooted in tradition, his approach is open-minded and experimental. “Ustad Saami is more progressive than most hipsters a fraction of his age,” Brennan says.