Stories of the soul | Pakistan Today

Stories of the soul

 Scholarship is alive and well, but in the West!

There are some works that, considering the writer’s foreign background, the many cross-cultural diversities he must have faced in his various researches and indeed the sheer physical dangers of roaming about in another country’s backwaters, can well and truly be qualified by that otherwise overworked epithet, a labour of love.

Peter Pannke, the author of this beautifully produced book on Sufi shrines and Sufi music in Pakistan, has spent some four decades in conveying this localized art genre to a wider world audience through his writings (and inevitably the medium of CDs and LPs). This is the English translation of his book which first appeared in German in 1999.

After starting his travels in the East, as they say, he first paid homage at the tombs of Jalaluddin Rumi and Hafiz, but was enraptured by the malangs of Sehwan Sharif and Bhitshah, the dervishes, fakirs and Qalandars of the Punjab, among whom he lived for some time, and also fascinated by the preponderance of such shrines scattered over the Sindh and Punjab, each with its own mythology and distinctive poetry and music.

Peter Pannke manages to establish a close rapport with the many musicians that he encounters on his travels, who sang for him, and regaled him with stories and sayings of the various saints: even today, the beauty of ‘Mera ishq bhi tu…’ sung to him in Kot Addu one afternoon by none other than Pathaney Khan haunts him to this day.

A genuine scholar, thorough in his work and curious about other cultures, a man who is a stout bridge between East and West, deserves at least the simple tribute, that his present work be read by all lovers of Sufi mysticism here and abroad.

And apart from this peculiar interest, Pannke, who is German (and hence Tuetonic thoroughness and precision must come naturally to him) is also a scholar of Sinology, Indology and Comparative Religions, not from some Monticello fly-by-night institution, but from universities in Hamburg, Marburg, Benares and Munich.

And that is not all, he also just happens to be a composer and producer with more than eighty CDs and LPs to his name. A genuine scholar, thorough in his work and curious about other cultures, a man who is a stout bridge between East and West, deserves at least the simple tribute, that his present work be read by all lovers of Sufi mysticism here and abroad. And the full page photographs, by Horst A. Friedrich that accompany the text and dominate the entire book are without exception a delight to watch too, each telling its own story.

It is just as well that Peter Pannke last visit to Pakistan in connection with his research was in 1997, his first being in 1969.

A great deal of water has flowed in his beloved Indus since then, and it is a moot point if he would have had the same freedom of movement and ready access to his subjects in the present time, when even holy shrines are not escaping the wrath of our Mr Ts.

The topography of the regions of the Sufis of Sindh, the mighty Indus stream, and chapters on Sufis and music, Data Ganj Bakhsh, Sehwan Sharif, the annual Urs and much more about all the famous.

Saints and Singers

Saints and Singers:

Sufi Music in the Indus Valley

Author: Peter Pannke

Publisher: Oxford University Press, Karachi

Pages: 151; Price: Rs2800/-



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