From Bhit Shah, with love

by Ahmed Saeed Khan

You won’t know it but your feet would tap and your hands would clap. You won’t know it but your head would swing to the rhythm. Your eyes will close, and you will repeat the lyrics with such joy that you will become part of the melody.

When you listen the mystic sound of Aik-tara – the compositions made on the Tambura and the enchanting vocals; you will wander away to different world. You have to experience it to believe the magic Sufi music creates.

My visit to Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s shrine in Bhit Shah has shown me an entirely different way of life. Harmony and peace are rare in my busy city life, that too in a country which has seen a lot of bloodshed and terrorism over the years. Yet we have places which are not much spoken of, places where one can understand what humanity truly is and places which help us make peace with life. Those few hours I spent in the distant district out of my comfort zone showed me what tranquillity means

Bhit jo Shah (Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai from Bhit-Sindh) stands out to be a prominent Sufi poet from Sindh. Bhit jo Shah’s literary work can be seen in “Shah jo Risalo” meaning the message of Shah, which has 30 compilations, which are each sung on a different sur/raag/raagni. However the basic concept of his work is to teach how the individual is to cultivate the godly attributes, negate his ego in a quest to become a better human being.

These 30 sur’s are named after the stories which are sung in them, for instance,”Sur Hussaini” glorifies the martyrdom of Hasan and Hussain. “Sur Samundi” glorifies the trading traditions of Sindh. “Sur Ramkali” applauds the Yogis/ Jogis and their dedication. “Sur Sasui” is on the tragedy of Sassi and her lover Punhu, “Sur Bilawal” sings of the golden period in Sindh under the Sammas and the tragedy of Bilawal also known as the liberal minded royal , who was killed [ crushed in an oil press] by the fanaticism of the rather conformist Sammas.

Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai’s art still has a deep connect with the locals of the region, and his words still echo all day long in his shrine where devoted followers sing his mystic poems, for us to feel the trance and embark our spiritual journey.

The artists found in Bhit Shah use Tambura to make music which makes you sink in to the beats of the sur being played.

Ismail Faqeer, a devotee at the shrine. Photo by the author

It was my privilege to meet Ismail Faqeer , a devoted follower of the saint and an outstanding artist. Ismail has been associated with the shrine for the last 10 years of his life. He finds peace in his work. He firmly believes that Sufism preaches humanity and builds strong ties with the creator. “Devotees do not kill in the name of religion” he said.

Preaching humanity through music is the focal point in Sufi music traditionally. Ismail showed me a 2oo year old Tambura which belonged to his teacher (ustad) and was passed on to him by his father, who got it from his father, so basically it is an heirloom which has moved on from generation to generation..

Here is a glimpse of what lies in Bhit.