Singer-songwriter Ali Zafar’s Main Nahi Hoon highlights Pakistan-Turkey cross-cultural cooperation and Islamic devotional music’s extensive repertoire. Zafar’s latest record, released on December 3, features Turkish performers and folk music to further his idea of transcendence.
Shoaib Ali’s song, based on the Sufi notion of Fana, emphasizes the elimination of ego and Zafar’s link to the divine, reminiscent of Dīwān al-Hallāj. The song begins with a fingerpicked acoustic guitar pattern, continuing Zafar’s modern style.
The flute-led melodies in Maqam Kurd give the first glimpse of Turkish folk influence, which will dominate the track’s creative approach. After powerful ensemble harmonizing, the instrumental’s energy peaks before the first verse and resolves as the violin bows pause; “Jo Mujh Main Bolta Hai, Main Nahi Hoon” kicks in, a confession of submission to the divine.
A brief string ensemble tune that unites everything and symbolizes existence divides the mystical words. Zafar travels with South Asian Sufi thinking and returns with Punjabi Ishq poetry, maybe to combine Waris and Al-Hallaj.
Zafar adds another melodic segment, tripling the tempo as the song nears its end. Though intentional, the speed change pays respect to Sufi spiritual music. In an emotional moment, the song repeats “Jo Mujh Main Bolta Hai, Main Nahi Hoon,” completing the circle to the first realization.
The vocalist writes in a brief note accompanying the single, “We all somewhat struggle with the question of ‘Who am I?'” “Remove the ‘I’ and we open ourselves to the understanding that perhaps we are only vessels for something greater to flow through—manifesting itself in its glorious creativity,” Zafar says.
He suggests several art forms and articulations. Sometimes poetry, sometimes music, sometimes quiet, sometimes nothing. From nothingness comes everything. I hope this music helps.” The movie Main Nahi Hoon is streaming everywhere.