by Misbah Saba Malik
ISLAMABAD, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- Saira Peter, a British singer of Pakistani origin, is visiting the country's capital Islamabad with an aim to convey the message of peace and love through her singing.
Saira, who was born and raised in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi, has been living in London for the last 15 or 16 years, where she got trained in opera music from Paul Knight who was a student of English composer Benjamin Britten, a legend in Western classical music.
Saira told Xinhua that she sings in various languages including English, Latin and some regional languages of Pakistan, and her main focus is to lend her voice to the mystic poetry penned down by Muslim Sufi (mystic) poets in 17th and 18th century.
Saira said 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."
"I sing Sufi opera in my concerts in the West in western languages to tell them about our cultural values, and to convey the message that we are peace-loving people who believe in love, friendship and humanity."
The singer said that she feels very happy whenever she visits Pakistan, because it makes her feel closer to her roots.
"My parents believed in me, they let me do whatever I wanted to do with my life, despite living in a conservative society, so I want other girls to be free too and listen to their heart if they want to adopt singing as their profession," she said.
Saira has recently opened a music academy for women in Karachi where she will train women and girls in opera singing.
"I am the first opera singer of Pakistan and the only Sufi opera singer in the world. I want other Pakistani girls to learn this genre of music and adopt it as their profession if they want," Saira said.
She said she also owns a music center "Noor Jahan Music" in London, to promote Pakistani music and culture.
"Many Britons visit NJ Music after attending my concert, and show interest in Pakistani music and Sufi poetry, some of them have also become fans of famous Pakistani singers including Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Abida Perveen," she added.
The singer said that another reason for choosing the works of 17th and 18th century poets for her songs was the preservation of Pakistan's historical and cultural heritage through music.
Saira said that as a woman singer whenever she performs in Pakistan, she gets respect from the crowd, and has never faced any threat from any extremist group.
"I am serving my country by spreading the message of peace through my music, why should I fear a handful of people who are against peace and stability of Pakistan. I am not afraid of anyone, and will keep on visiting the country and keep on spreading peace," she said.
Opera is a quite unique form of music for Pakistanis, so every time when Saira visits Pakistan, she gets invitation from various arts councils in big cities to perform there, and every time she succeeds in attracting a number of people, many of which attend her concert out of their curiosity for opera, the singer's media coordinator said on a lighter note.