Saakin’s latest sufi epic Saqi-e-Bawafa is a rendition of a poem by Shams Tabrizi, a Persian sufi who is credited as being one of the spiritual instructors to Rumi himself. So the boys from Islamabad are dealing with some pretty hefty source material here.

Thankfully, they nail the rendition, managing to stay faithful to tradition while forging something new and exciting. There’s barely any rock guitar in Saqi-e-Bawafa. This seems strange, especially given how massive and powerful the track sounds. Instead, the piano and percussive elements take centre stage here, giving everything a jazzy slant. It’s no surprise really, since three of the band members are also part of the nu-jazz band VIP.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing Saakin perform this song twice now, once at Lahore Music Meet and the other at a smaller more intimate show at True Brew Records. Both times the band was sublime. The vocal performance was exceptional – goosebumps good – and all the instrumentation was technically perfect, while also being emotive and rousing.

The question was always going to be, how can the band transfer this live performance into the studio? It’s often the case that something that exudes energy on stage can get neutered in the recording booth, robbing it of all the rawness that made it so good in the first place.

That’s not the case here. The buzzing synth, the meandering piano, the backbone bass, the soft but precise drums that never overpower the mix are all mixed beautifully. There’s a ruthless attention to detail here, but one that always gives way to the raw emotion beneath. It’s a powerful and brilliant piece of music, and difficult to believe it’s the band’s first official release. Looking forward to many more.

PS: Quick shoutout to the video that wonderfully encapsulates the psychedelic aspects of the song with great visual treatment and colour palette.

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