Experimental Eastern Folk Singer, a Sufi Explorer All The Way Here from Budapest, Hungary – Katalin Burns

So you’re from Hungary. Is there a spiritual wing to your native music?

It’s a big mystery actually. There are theories. Some came from the north of Asia, some from Hindustan as Hungarian music is very eastern sounding but more so a mix of all these. Hungarian population as it is area big mix of various genetics. Hungary is just a 1000 years old.

What was that first Sufi kalaam you heard and how did it affect you?

Nusrat fateh Ali Khan’s Dum Mast Qalandar. It sounded very powerful!

What brought you here? To Eastern Sufi folk?

I came to Pakistan and represented my own country’s folk music and a fusion show in 2012 as a vocalist. The flutist, table player and guitarist were local artists. It was organized by the Hungarian embassy in Islamabad.

How did you surpass the language barrier? I can see you’re multilingual. Aseen Marhun Lar jaa is sung beautifully by you!

I like learning new quaint languages a lot. Even when I’m back home in Budapest, I keep reading some Urdu books and watch many a videos related to the languages of my interest.  However, while I may be singing in various languages, I may not necessarily be knowing the meaning word to word. Music is truly a universal language within itself as is widely believed and that’s what draws me in.

I have managed to learn some Urdu from Facebook comments as well! I actually enjoy writing Facebook comments in Urdu and people think I know how to speak it fluently; what it really means is that writing and speaking are two different skills.

How long has it been since you have embarked upon this journey?

I have been performing in Pakistan since 2012 actually before which I only sang to the audience in my hometown.

We hear you derive your inspirations from Bulleh Shah. When did you read him up first? And what do you take home from his one of a kind preaching?

I was once searching Youtube for some folk songs and stumbled upon Fariha Pervaiz so melodiously singing one of Bulleh Shah’s endearing kalaams – Makkay Gayaan. His message is of self-actualization and that’s just what I learn from his words.

Which artists really inspire you?

Arjit Chakraborty from India has really inspired me this time round as I learnt a great deal him when we worked together recently. He is a young singer from Bengal.

You have participated in the Lahooti music festival too in Sindh lately. More on that please. Who else were down here with the same interest as yours from abroad?

I participated in this festival on my last trip to Pakistan. Other than me, there was Dallas Brown, Soumya Shukla and a band called Urr ja from Nepal.  Beautiful Ajraks were gifted to me even back in 2012 when I visited. The hospitality of Pakistan is phenomenal. I’m always overfed here with delicious culinary. I so enjoy it! Feels like home.

You’ve also performed in India where have you performed there? How the audience there was different compared to the one on Pakistan?

I have performed in Bengal. The audience there is also very open to experimental folk, maybe a bit more peaceful and not as expressive though, like back home in Hungary.

While growing up, was music a part of your education and upbringing?

Oh I’m the only musical soul in my household so not really. However the school I went to laid sufficient emphasis on music learning and in my primary years I learnt a few instruments and specialized in one – violin that be!

When I was in India last month I got a stringed instrument that is called Doh Taara.

Lastly, when are you performing here in Karachi? Anything in the pipeline?

Well, not since this was a personal trip, so not an all-out concert but quite a few small privately organized functions are what I’ll be performing at for now in Karachi.