I remember vividly that when black and white television was introduced first as a pilot station in Lahore in 1964, followed by three hours live transmission from 6pm to 9pm, a tall guy wearing black cloak and necklaces of thick beads used to appear in its folk music programmes.
He was Sain Akhtar Hussain who would sing folk songs on high pitch notes. He was a simple and Sufi guy by nature and appearance. Sain Akthar spent his life in poverty. If one listens to his Punjabi song “Channa Saade Naal Mukdi Muka Le”, one would notice that he starts singing in lower notes, then suddenly jumps to high notes on the line “More Na Saanu Pyar Da Challa”. That was his style in which he would impress the audience.
Sain Akhtar Hussain started his music career in Punjabi theatres like his contemporaries Inayat Hussain Bhatti, Alam Lohar and Tufail Niazi and alike. Later he drifted to film industry, radio and Pakistan Television. He started to sing many Punjabi songs in movies like ‘Waris Shah’, ‘Ishq Par Zor Nahi’ etc. Sain Akhtar was best known for his famous Allap in evergreen song “Dil Deta Hai Ro Ro Duhai Kisi Se Koi Pyar Na Kare” in the 1963 film ‘Ishq Par Zor Nahi’ with music by Master Inayat Hussain. The female portion by Mala was filmed on a village girl Yasmin and Sain Akhtar following her on the mountains in the film. This song is famous even after five decades of its conception. Later he was type cast by rendering his famous alaaps in many film songs, qawwalis, dhamals etc. Basically, he remained a folk singer but mostly sang Kafis and other folk songs on Urs of Holy Saints.
Sain Akhtar was co-singer for main singers like Inayat Hussain Bhatti, Salim Raza, Munir Hussain, Ahmad Rushdi and Masood Rana in many songs in Pakistani films. Some of these songs were “Na Milta Gar Yeh Tauba Ka Sahara”, “Daata Meray, Jholi Bhar Day”, “Sathi, Tera Mera Sathi Hay Lehrata Sumandar”, “Lal Meri Patt Rakhio Bala”.
One of Sain Akhtar’s melodious Punjabi songs was “Koi Karman Di Gal Dus Do Ni”, a catchy number. He always went for poetry that had a message in it especially with Sufi connotations. His presentations attracted Punjabi audience, especially the rural one. This song is available as radio recording as clarinets have been used in the interludes. He went for Sufi songs as well as reiterated above. For example, he rendered “Mera Pir Laal Qalandar” in a television recording and is seen with beads in his hands and neck, a cloak robe a Sufi whirling clothing gown and a Sindhi shawl on his shoulders. His cry on the word ‘Allah’ would touch the highest of the musical notes. Another number that starts with a dohra is “Mahiya Tere Pichey Deen Te Iman Bhul Gaye”. Singing “Mirza Saheban” and “Saiful Muluk” was his left hand’s job. One of the most popular rituals in Sufism is the visiting of graves and shrines of Sufi saints. The ritual of visiting any place of significance is called zayarat. Sain Akhtar used to visit such tombs. The concept was to spread Islam through the folk lore and Sufi poetry as he was specialist in rendering Kafis.
One of the famous Manzoor Jhalla geet “Bhul Janeya Kisse De Naal Pyar Na Kareen” sung by many was initially rendered by Sain Akhtar Hussain. Singing tappe and Mahiya is the forte of every folk singer. Tappe are fairly simple to compose. There are three lines, with the first and third rhyming. They are composed by friends sitting together in the village public meeting places. In a tappa, the first line basically sets the rhyme for the third line. The second and third lines can generally have any theme, but usually the subject is love. They originated in Punjabi, but in Urdu also people have attempted to compose them like Charagh Hasan Hasrat,
Sain Akhtar was born in Amritsar in 1920 and died on June 16, 1987 in Lahore. He was also the recipient of the coveted Pride of Performance award. His son Sain Khawar, is also a famous Punjabi folk singer and appears on television and stage.