Sunday, November 27, 2011

Balochi Folk Songs and Traditional Dances Chaap/Lewa.

Baloch has a rich musical culture. Music has a significant role on all occasions except ceremonies of death. Most of the Balochi Music is based on Zaheerag which is a kind of melancholic music. The instruments used are mainly a flute, locally called Nal, Tamboora and Soroz. Thanksgiving dances are made of joy at the time of positive weather changes and harvests, which are collectively performed in groups. A special religious dance is carried out by a Baloch sect known as Chogaa. Another common Baloch folk dance is known as Dochaap. In this dance men gather and dance in groups, clapping hands with the movement of foot, neck and head with rhythmical music on drums. On various occasions, women also move in a circle clapping their hands. Other dances include the Lewa, which is thought to be of Arabic origin, along with Latti and Hambo said to be of ancient Balochi origin, are also very popular.

Balochi Chap in Iran


Balochi music achieved an extraordinary development which is due in great part to a type of artist and artisan cast whose members are called Osta (master) and whose origins are unknown. The Ostas appeared among the Baloch tribes (particularly theRend), offering to put their music at the service of the tribes ancestral knowledge. Even if the Ostas occupy a modest position, they can at least boast of belonging to prestigious lineages of musicians.

Ziarekan by Sabzal Samigi


In fact, there are reasons to think that they are the descendants of the Lulismentioned in the ancient chronicles. In these chronicles, a fifth-century Persian king asked an Indian king to send him musicians so that his subjects could listen to music while drinking their wine. Ten thousand Lulis were thus dispersed over the territory of Iran to put their talent at the service of the people.

Sabzal Samigi


It is impssible to verify whether these are the same tribes as those from which the present-day musicians of Balochistan are descended, which would make them descendants of the first Gypsies. In fact, there are many parallels between Balochi musicians and other groups who are also considered to comprise a part of the initial "Proto-Gipsy" nucleus, for example, certain Sindi groups and the castes of Langaw musician of Rajistan

Balochi Chaap [Folk Dance] as Mengal Perform it in Nushki


Balochi Chap [Folk Dance] from Noshki - Balochistan


Sabz Ali Bugti


Festive Songs
Feasts on the occasion of a marriage or circumcision are important social and cultural events in which music plays a large role. Wedding songs in genres called Salonk andNazenk for the groom and bride, respectively, belong to the most purely Balochi layer of the repertory, which also includes lullabies and funerary chants.

Each stage of the feast corresponds to particular songs. Marriages provide the occasion for singing both Sawts ----popular songs on themes of love and separation, and ghazals, which typically use learned Persian poetry. Most of these traditional songs can be performed by the participants, but these days, hosts prefer to invite a variety of instrumentalists and female vocalists----all amplified----to give more cache to the event.

Balochi Folk Song by Sabz Ali Bugti


Even during the intimate ceremonies reserved for women, it is possible to engage a group of male musicians to animate the party. To describe all the stage of a complete wedding would take too long, but brief descriptions of a few of the central events will show how music in involved.

Laila O Laila by Late. Faiz Muhammad Baloch

Aye Naz Husn-e-Wala by Late. Faiz Muhammad Baloch

A wedding takes place several days and is announced in the street by performers playing the Sorna, a loud oboe, and Dohl, a drum. In the house of the bride (Banur) a curtain is drawn down the middle of a room, behind which the young woman remains for several days, tended to and fed by 8 or 10 women who are close to her.

Each evening the women feast, sing, and dance among themselves while playing theDohl and Kuzag, an earthen water jug. Meanwhile, the men have erected a high tent canopy (Tanbu) in the courtyard or in the street and pass the time singing and dancing under it. The first evening, the hands of the bride are decorated with henna (Enny) while the women sing songs (Nazenk) that correspond to this ceremony, as well as other songs. Another evening, they wash, make up, and apply perfume to the bride, all the while singing still other songs. The same scene takes place in the house of the groom

Masqat-e-Mairok by Late. Faiz Muhammad Baloch

Wash Gushi by Late. Faiz Muhammad Baloch

Nazenk are sung each time he is the object of a particular type of care. After several days, the groom is led to the house of the bride.

This procession provides the occasion for another musical interlude in the street with the groom. After the nuptial benediction, Nazenks are sung, and the party begins.

Kharmo Kay Bassonay by Akhtar Channal Zehri [Brahvi]

Parkoi's Lado [Brahvi]


In present-day Baloch society, wedding songs are constantly being lost, and old musicians deplore the fact that nowadays most of the beautiful wedding song like theNazenk and Salonk have been forgotten, and people sing whatever they want at wedding ceremonies. Marriage songs are also practiced for feasts given at the time of a circumcision, and the term Salonk, which appears in most of the songs, designated both the groom and the young boy who is at the center of the festivity.

Baragh Baggi


Sabz Ali Bugti


ALE Lewa Lewa Balochi Dance of Mekran


Secular Celebration and Trance Ritual
The performance of music for weddings or circumcisions can also assume the character of trance music through rhythmic acceleration and a narrowing of the melodic range. In this atmosphere, the music elicits bursts of joy and dance, bringing to mind the modes and rhythms of trance music, yet with different texts.

Balochi Chaap


Conversely, certain trance melodies are very close to secular repertories, particularly lullabies and Nazenk, or are simply borrowings, superficially adapted. Music for celebration can lead to a certain excitation and in return, trance music and ritual can animate a celebration. The bride and groom are pampered like a patient undergoing spirit exorcism, and the celebration ends with a good meal. Despite these affinities, however, the two repertories are quite distinct and never mixed together in a ritual.

Traditional Brahvi Jani Dastan Bandan


Trance rituals reserve a central place for music, and integrate elements of shamanism with the traditions of popular Sufism. When someone becomes ill and cannot be healed by doctors, the person is taken to a Khalife (Shaman), and melodies are played which cause the khalife to enter into trance, and manages to treats the sick person, who often himself enters into trance, and manages to appease the evil spirit.Guati-Damali music can also be simply for pleasure, between friends, and without ritual

Brahvi Chap [Folk Dance of Balochistan]


Kand maye jani kand Balochi song by Khadim Hussain Bugti


Brahvi Chap


Its melodies reflect a simple structure, but abundantly and skillfully ornamented, inspired by Sufi litanies (Zhikr) and the invocations of saints. One type of ritual reveals African stylistic influences: the spirits are of African origin, and certain of the melodies were composed by Balochi musicians of African origin.

Balochi Classic Biya Biya Dilbar by Mureed Buledi

Classic Balochi Love Song by Mureed Buledi

Musical Instruments and Rhythm

Preferred instrument of professional Balochi musicians is the Sorud, or fiddle. It is cut from a block of wood (Parpuk, sometimes Mulberry) in a complex shape which suggests a skull and whose soundboard consists of the skin of a gazelle or goat. It is strung with four strings played with a small bow whose sound is amplified by 6 or 8 sympathetic strings. All metered vocal and instrumental performance is accompanied by a rhythmic drone on the large lute called Tamburag, which has two strings, one of which is doubled. Its playing seems simple, but it contains many rhythmic subtleties.

Balochi Song Wash Mallay by Aziz Baloch

The Benju or Benjo is a dulcimer fitted with a keyboard. It was originally a mere musical toy, but after important improvements made by Balochi craftsmen, it has become a regular part of the Balochi instrumentalism. The Balochi Benju is an imposing instrument----three or so feet in length, with a loud and brilliant sound, and a range of more than two octaves. It can reproduce any traditional style, and these days is found in Sindhi music as well.

The Doholak is a Tambur of Indian origin made from a tree trunk and shaped like a barrel about, 2-3 feet long, the two sides are decorated with skins linked together bystrings whose length can be adjusted, permitting the player to adjust the tension REFERENCE: Maqam; Musical Magazine (Quarterly) Summer & Autumn 1999 By: Ashraf Sarbazi Pages: 126 - 129 August 14, 2009 11:16 PM EDT A CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY OF BALUCHIS August 12, 2009 07:49 PM EDT Knowing the facts about Balochi music, instruments, styles and masters

Friday, November 18, 2011

Balochi Folk Music on Suroz (Musical Instrument of Balochistan)

The suroz is a bowed string instrument with a long neck, similar to a fiddle or sarangi and played vertically. It is considered the national instrument of the Balochs. - "Notwithstanding the emergence of a strong nationalistic feeling among the Baloch population both in Iran and Pakistan, the existence of pahlawan (professional singers of verse narratives), and the love for suroz (a bowed instrument played as an accompaniment to narrative songs and considered to be the national instrument of the Baloch) among the educated classes, there seems to be no future for the oral tradition in Balochistan." REFERENCE: Suroz

Balochi Suroz by Sachu Khan


Makrani (Coastal Area of Balochistan) Suroz


Attired in a traditional Balochi costume and holding a decorated Suroz (a local musical instrument) in his left hand with fingers on its strings, Suchu Khan is out to conquer the world with his music. “Race, colour, language, they are no barriers for me. At my concerts abroad hundreds of youth dance on my tunes in jam-packed auditoriums. It is all very heartening,” he says. Suchu Khan is a recipient of the prestigious Tamgha-i-Imtiaz conferred on him by the president of Pakistan. His is a familiar name among folk music lovers not only in Balochistan but throughout Pakistan. Those who hear him play the Suroz do not let him go away before playing popular folk tunes for them. Suchu Khan was born in 1962 at Sui, Dera Bugti, and hails from a family famous for Suroznawaz whose male members hold the ancestral tradition of playing it for centuries. It was his uncles Zehru and Tungau who discovered the talent in Suchu at a very young age and encouraged him to learn how to play the instrument.

Suchu was also fascinated by the melody of the instrument and accompanied his uncles to performances — be it tribal gatherings, stage or radio stations. He is grateful to them for what he is today. “They were great teachers,” he says proudly. “One needs a lot of dedication and hard work to learn the Suroz. Beside that, one needs a good teacher. The Suroz is played with the help of fingertips which is not at all simple.” Encouragement from his audiences over the years has meant a lot to Suchu Khan. “Once just after my performance, Ata Shad (Baloch/Urdu poet) came on stage and kissed my fingertips. It was a great moment for me. Since then I have received many awards and appreciation but I have never been able to forget his gesture. Even today I often visualize the scene after every performance. It helps me work harder at my performances,” he says. He admits that surviving on music is tough and the journey has been a long and turbulent one. “There are many talented artistes in Balochistan who are not as fortunate. They hardly get noticed. One finds exceptionally talented musicians and singers among the Balochi nomads.”

Suchu is a widely travelled artiste. He had performed in the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Greece, Norway, Denmark, Russia, Thailand, Philippine, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Abu Dubai and Dubai. “Wherever I go, my pride on being a Pakistani goes with me,” he says. While abroad, he says he considers himself a cultural ambassador of Pakistan. “People ask me questions about my country, province, art, language and culture. “I tell them that Pakistan is quite rich in art and music. Suroz is a part of our heritage since time immemorial and I explain to them how this instrument is carved out of wood of the Parpuk tree that grows wild in Balochistan. They take a lot of interest and sometimes ask me to sell it to them,” he laughs. He expresses generous gratitude to all who encouraged him, specially the music production team of PTV and Radio Pakistan, Quetta. “They promoted me and my art. Without their patronage it would have been difficult. Had there been more like them, it would have been good for folk music,” he says. “I intend to set up an institute where I will teach talented youth how to play the Suroz. I want this tradition to continue and this art to live longer. It can be promoted through apprenticeship programmes under Lok Virsa or the arts councils network, provided they engage veteran musicians to pass this art on to the next generation,” says Suchu Khan. REFERENCE: Truly enchanted By Babar Baloch November 20, 2005

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tribute to Great Punjabi Folkster Alam Lohar (Courtesy: Imran Mehmood)

Muhammad Alam Lohar was a prominent Punjabi folk music singer of Pakistan.He died in 1979 in an accident. He is also credited with popularizing the term and song Jugni. Alam Lohar was born in the small village of Aach Goach in Gujrat District, in Punjab, Pakistan into a family of blacksmiths. He was gifted with a melodious voice and began singing as a child. Alam Lohar developed a new style of singing the Punjabi Vaar, an epic or folk tale. He is famous for his rendition of Waris Shah’s Heer, which he has memorized in 36 styles and forms. He recorded his first album at the age of 13 and has outsold all other singers in Pakistan (Verified in records kept with HMV Pakistan 1979)

Alam Lohar - Jugni (classic original)




In his childhood he used to read sufiana kalaams, Punjabi stories and participate as a young child in local elderly gatherings expressing a vocal only art form in reading passages of great poets. From many of the gatherings out of the rural background rose a great singer that could influence his audience with elements of joy peace, happiness and sadness. Further on: he started going to festivals and gatherings on a regular basis and within these performances he rose to become one of the most listened to singers in South Asia. In the 1970s it was the Queen's Jubilee event in the UK and there was a singing competition between all Commonwealth Countries and after all performances: Alam Lohar won the award as the best performance and was handed a gold medal for his unique and God given voice. Throughout the period of 1930's and until his passing away in 1979 he has dominated Folk singing in Pakistan and been a major singer in Punjabi and Sufi singing throughout the entire World. In many rural villages the local traditional people have called him 'Sher-e-Punjab' or 'Heerah' meaning diamond.



Alongside his God given voice and singing in difficult high and low pitches he had a unique style of singing with his Chimta. Now the Chimta has been around for centuries as it was a tool used in gathering livestock in rural settings or used as a aid in other activities, but Alam Lohar has the unique credit that he single handedly popularised this instrument globally and modified its use and changed its outlook.





Other than being a famous singer, Alam lohar was also a great poet writing his own songs and kalaams and also had another quality that he used old books of Sufi saints and stories and brought them in a song format: which gave his songs overwhelming great lyrical content which could make people cry and express joy at the same time. The word "Jugni" was his creation and he created this term from reading many Sufi writings and represented this word as a spiritual feeling of ones experience of the world. Furthermore he was the pioneer of introducing the writings of Saif Ul Mulook and Mirza Shabaan in a song format.



Alam Lohar had another quality that he had overwhelming singing stamina - he was renowned to sing all night and sometimes without the music technology we have with PA systems now-nevertheless his strong voice could be heard in large gatherings. In rural punjab he used to sing from village to village and without any modern music technology: his voice reflected with the background of the natural echo caused by the stillness of the night. In essence, later on Alam Lohar organised a full-fledged theatre with a complete orchestra. His troupe toured all over Punjab for religious and seasonal festivals and was one of the first Pakistani as well as South Asian singers to sing internationally in almost all countries that had people from the South Asian region.



Alam Lohar died in an accident near Sham ki Bhaitiyan on July 3, 1979. He was laid to rest in Lala Musa, Punjab, Pakistan. He was given the Pride of Performance award in 1979 by General Zia Ul Haq in Islamabad and has received numerous awards within his lifetime. He is a pioneer in cultural and Folk styled singing and has in his own right become a folk story. He set a bench mark and many Punjabi and other folk singers have greatly been influenced. Therefore he has left a great legacy of a unique style of singing which is still followed in Pakistan by Punjabi as well as other folk singers. One of the greatest singers of all time: he is seen and remembered through his son Arif Lohar who has continued in the same tradition. May he rest in Peace - & May God grant him Peace - Alam Lohar

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Folk Music of Manganhar & Banjaras of Tharparkar & Rajasthan. centuries ago in the Jodhpur and Jaisalmer desert areas of Rajasthan, the Banjaras were bullock transport carriers and builders of great monuments, who ranged throughout the subcontinent negotiating and maintaining expensive contracts to supply goods to important customers as the Moghal armies and the British. For centuries, they efficiently moved their enormous caravans through vast roadless tracts of all India, guarantying safe conduct for grain, salt and messages. Doing so they spread from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, from Orissa to Gujarat, spilling over into Sind, Pakistan, Iran and further west. Since they wore all their wealth, they were famed for their colorful dress and spectacular jewelry, and known for their lyricism, for song, poetry and dance, and for the maintenance of a unique aesthetic in their embroidery.

With the advent of the railway and the building of a road system, the Banjaras lost their primary occupation, but retained their tradition of monument buildings. Typical of peripatetic nomads, the Banjaras maintain strong boundaries so that they can interact with surrounding peoples and yet retain their cultural integrity. Such boundaries include the separate villages called tanda where the majority of the Banjaras still live today, situated near large cities where they work as construction laborers, or in remote rural areas where they farm, raise and herd animals. Their religion very different from the mainstream one. Their myths are origin, traditional taboos and social structure. The language they use is known as “ghormati” or “Banjaraboli”, related to Hindi, Rajasthani, Punjabi and Roma of the European gypsies, unintelligible to most outsiders, while learning, the regional languages of every part of India where they have settled. And their distinctive colorful clothing, jewelry and embroidery.

Banjara performed by Gulzar Manganhaar (Courtesy: Dr Fouzia Saeed)


An endogamous ethnic people, the Banjaras prohibit marriage with outsiders. Among themselves, they are exogamous, marrying only with members of opposite clans, known as gotras. This Hinduized form of exogamy takes its model specifically from the cast system from the Rajputs of Rajasthan. The same gotras are used throughout the subcontinent, allowing Banjaras from distant places to identify themselves to one another by reciting their lineage.

Scentadli lagai re choro (Alghozo) Performed by Tagaram Bheel (Courtesy: Morchang Studio)


Tere dwar khada ek jogi (Alghozo) Performed by Tagaram Bheel (Courtesy: Morchang Studio)

URL: religion is animistic and implies a deep respect for natural processes and a close alliance with ambiguities inherent to their life. The Banjaras have a high tolerance for irrationality, for teasing and mischievousness, for ambiguity. These dual aspects or contradictions contribute to the hostility and fear that mainstream people exhibit toward the Banjara…. Nationwide, they trace their origin through a complex lineage to cow-herding God Krishna and his consort Radha. At the same time, they retain allegiance to local and pan. Banjaras heroes, gods, goddesses, pilgrimage sites and rites interlaced with their particular history and pattern of wandering. Banjara deify ancestors and saints are worshipped and revered, their own priests, bhagats, interfacing with ancestors and interpreting omens, dreams, miraculous stories and magic. materially wealthy or some impoverished, the Banjaras appear to feel at ease anywhere, either moving through the country side of Karnataka, or selling their wares on market day in Goa or at home in their tanda throughout the subcontinent. Synonyms for groups and subgroups of the Banjaras, usually having regional and occupational significance, include the following: banjara, banjari, brinjari, gauria, gavadia, laban, labhana, labhani, lamani, lambani, lambadi, sugali, bamania, charan, ghor, marwadi, and many other names…….

Khartal Jugalbandi

Note: The Khartals are a two blocks of wood which are held in the hand of the musician. The pieces of wood are not connected in any way, but when held correctly they can be clapped together at high speeds to make fast complex beats.

Courtesy: Travel video Rajasthan

Chapar (Khartal - wood clapper), Alghozo and Dillo (Matka)

Jugalband with Khartals and others.

Courtesy: Travel video Rajasthan

Sindhi Rano performed by Rajasthani Folk Artists


Embroidery and Dress their ethnic membership, all Banjaras embroideries are designed for a nomadic life style and, while featuring geometric, floral and animal motifs used by a majority of India’s village peoples, Banjara embroidery design is strikingly different.

For dancing and ordinary ceremonial wear, women use traditional skirts, shawls and backless blouses generally made of commercial textiles, synthetic yarns and locally available mirrors and metal ornaments. The blouses usually are ornamented on the sleeves and fully embroidered with mirrors across the front. Embroidered flaps with metal ornaments are added to the blouses of married women. The shawls have embroidered borders along the top and bottom edges with a wider more elaborate strip of mirror embroidery at the center top that frames the face. The skirts, hanging low on the hips, are worn with the kodi sadak, a long rope of cowries; the waist bands are generally reinforced with sturdy embroidery, worked on a red quilted or twined ground. Particularly fine pieces are made for prospective brides.

Banjara women throughout India wear elaborate twisted and braided hairdos that support and display jewelry and textiles; those styles are typical of Rajasthan. The traditional dress is completed with rows of ivory or bone bracelets, nowadays made of white plastic, worn on the arms, with silver bangles, nose gold ring (bhuria), beads or silver coins necklaces.

Amongst the Banjaras, the single most important ceremonial textile is an embroidery approximately 50 cm. square, of many uses including wedding water pot cover or ritual table cover. It can pre folded to make up different kind of elaborately embroidered dowry bags.

Reference sources:

“Banjara: Adornment of a people of all India.” by Nora Fisher. In “Mud, Mirror and Thread. Folk traditions in rural India” 1993 – 1994.

“Castes and Tribes of Southern India”. By E. Thurston. Government press, Madras 1909 – Volume IV (Lambadi – Pages 207 to 232)

“The Art and Literature of Banjaras – Lambanis” by D.B. Naik – Abhinav Publications 2000.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Snake Charmers of Sindh (Late. Iqbal Jogi & Misri Jogi)., the earliest evidence of snake charming can be traced to the Egyptians. Till the early 1990s, it was quite normal to see snake charmers wandering in the streets with their colourful bulging bag hanging on their shoulder. Their serpents were in baskets or pots hanging from a bamboo pole slung over the shoulder. These charmers usually wore very colourful attire, comprising a turban and long kurta and had mostly long and curly hair. Necklaces of shells or large beads and earrings would make their personality even more mysterious. They usually attracted people's attention by playing a special flute-like instrument made from gourd, known as 'been'. Once a sizable crowd had gathered, the snake charmer would play the flute and a snake eventually emerged from the cane or straw basket. It is commonly believed that the snake actually dances to the tune of the flute but in reality, the snake can't hear anything. It actually moves with the motion of the flute that the charmer moves while playing it. Baba Kamesha, a 60-year-old snake charmer, has been in this profession for the past 20 years. It is his family profession and even the children in his family are involved in it.

Misri Jogi & Companion with Murli (Snake Charmers of Sindh)


Kamesha learnt all about snakes, which he calls saanpon ka ilm, from his master Log Bengali. He disclosed that a snake charmer keeps wandering — visiting villages, towns and cities and also spends years in desserts and jungles to search for serpents. Kamesha got his snake from Balochistan's desert. "An inexplicable relationship exists between a snake and its charmer, the jogi," Kamesha confesses. According to him, a snake never hurts its master; and the master, for his own part, is not scared of being bitten by the snake, even poisonous ones. And in case of a snake bite, the jogi uses traditional remedies to treat himself and keeps a white mysterious powder in his pocket which he applies instantly on the bitten area. These days, snake charming has almost vanished because no one is really interested in watching a poor man's art and his serpent's performance. REFERENCE: Feature: Fading with time By Wajiha Jawaid | InpaperMagzine March 5, 2011

Late. Iqbal Jogi on Murli

URL:, Jan 20: Snake charmers called Jogis in Sindhi warned on Saturday that many rare species of snakes were fast becoming extinct in Sindh and demanded that the government should set up an institution to preserve and conduct research on the reptile. A group of Jogis said while addressing a press conference at the Hyderabad press club that the government should also establish an educational institution for them. Arjun, an expert on snakes, said that the snakes feed on meat, mud and milk and advised the government to set up an institution to preserve the snakes which were fast becoming extinct. He said that the snakes' venom and meat could cure many diseases such as tuberculosis and jaundice and disclosed that Jogis administered a soup prepared from snake meat to their children and believed the diet would help them tell one kind of snake from the other. He claimed that there were 900,000 snakes and 100 scorpions in the province. He said that the most famous specie of snakes were Umel Karo, Pandam, Karar and Lundi and among them Lundi was the most dangerous, which was found only in Sindh. Mohammad Urs Behrani, Syed Mureed Ali Shah and Aslam Channa also addressed the conference. Jogis had brought with them some snakes, which were put on display in glass containers. REFERENCE: HYDERABAD: Snake charmers call for research Bureau Report January 21, 2007 Sunday Muharram 01, 1428

Monday, January 31, 2011

Tribute to Legendary Faqueer Abdul Ghafoor (1910-1986)

A gaunt, regal saffron turbanned figure, yaktaro held aloft, steps onto the stage. Beside him is a smaller, younger man; several other saffron-robed faqirs follow, and as the full throated, open roar of Faqir Abdul Ghafoor rents the night air, they move around him in rhythmic union, echoing the words of the kafi he is singing. It is an unforgettable experience and one that can never be repeated, for Faqir Abdul Ghafoor died last month. (Article was written in 1986 and this post is posted in 2011)

Ant Bahar Di Khabar by Late. Faqueer Abdul Ghafoor

 Chalo Way Sayan by Late. Faqueer Abdul Ghafoor


 With his passing, a long chapter in Sindh’s cultural history drew towards a close. It seems tragically symbolic that the greatest surviving Sindhi folk singer should die at a time when monumental changes are taking place in his beloved homeland: changes which will sweep away the society and culture which shaped his musical career.

Sohnay Yar Di Gharoli by Late. Faqueer Abdul Ghafoor

 Faqir Abdul Ghafoor was born into that environment: the feudal society of Sindh, with its rural base, its village culture, its havelis and autaqs and, most important of all as far as the music is concerned, its dargahs and pirs and faqirs. He grew up surrounded by the sounds of the dargah and the kalam of the sufi poets, and took up the study and practice of music at an early age. At that time, the music of the dargah was the dominant form of musical expression at the popular level, and it was inevitable that the young Ghafoor would gravitate towards a murshed.

Kalangi Walra 2 by Late. Faqueer Abdul Ghafoor

His choice was Sachal Sarmast, and it was at his dargah at Daraza (near Khairpur), that Faqir Abdul Ghafoor received his early training. Sachal’s shrine was the gathering place for many great singers of his kafis, and Ghafoor gained invaluable experience, listening to them and storing away their particular styles and approach. He presided over the annual ceremony at which a special chadar was laid on the tomb of the saint, and sang the kafi associated with this occasion, and sung only once in a year.

Bar Sudagar by Late. Faqueer Abdul Ghafoor

Ghum Charakhra by Late. Faqueer Abdul Ghafoor

The range and power of Faqir Abdul Ghafoor’s voice had already marked him out as an exceptional kafi performer, but his scope was not limited to the dargah. His intense interest in the politics of Sindh was seldom far from his music. During the period of agitation against One Unit, Ghafoor performed at a students’ function at Liaquat Medical College, Hyderabad. His choice of a Shaikh Ayaz’s wai brought the house down:
Sahando ker mayar o’ yar

Sindhri ta’an ser ker na deendo

(Who among us, my friend, would bear the shame

Of not sacrificing himself for Sindh when the call comes?).

Muhinjey Ranay Khey Raham Paway by Late. Faqueer Abdul Ghafoor

After this performance, no Sindhi cultural occasion was considered complete without Ghafoor singing Sindhri... A close friend of Ghafoor’s once recalled that, ”Whenever Ghafoor has stepped onto a stage in Sindh during a period of political turmoil, he has always been called upon to sing Sindhri. In fact, the emotions aroused by his performance were so powerful that the authorities banned him from singing this wai on public occasions. They allowed others to sing whatever they wanted to, but Ghafoor was too much for them to handle.”

Nahay Barochal by Late. Faqueer Abdul Ghafoor

Ghafoor pioneered and popularised many other now-famous folk songs and kafis, including Dama dam mast Qalandar, Gharoli and Rano. His performance of Rano was a special favourite of the late Prime Minister Bhutto, who often used to call Ghafoor to his home to sing for him. This association between the Prime Minister and the Faqir assumed a special poignance when Mr. Bhutto was in jail, a few months before his death, and Ghafoor sang Rano on the Bhitshah stage: the cry by Moomal (Sindh) that Rano would return, was readily associated by the audience with the then current political situation.

Faqir Abdul Ghafoor’s love of Sindh and his rebellious nature were a natural vehicle for the anti-establishment poetry with which his music was largely associated. But he was much more than just a Sindhi folk musician. His collection of the kalam of various poets and his own development of the songs he discovered during his sojourn at Sachal’s and other shrines, was a unique contribution to the musical tradition of Pakistan. The sufi literary and musical heritage has drawn from a variety of sources; Ghafoor himself was familiar with the poetry of several languages, including Seraiki, Baluchi, Farsi, Gujrati, Punjabi and Urdu/Hindi..

Soorat Jo Sultan by Late. Faqueer Abdul Ghafoor

 Dil Masto Mast by Late Faqeer Abdul Ghafoor


 Hithay Nahin To Kithay Nahin Yeh Kaun Piya Bolenda by Faqueer Abdul Ghafoor (Sachal Sarmast)

 Aao Kaanga Kar by Late Faqeer Abdul Ghafoor


The environment which produced I. this extraordinary man has now changed so substantially, that it is inconceivable that another Ghafoor could emerge. The spontaneity, lack of artifice and the self-consciousness of Ghafoor’s performance (and that of other Sindhi musicians like Hussain Bakhsh Khadim, his constant companion and co-performer, Allan Faqir and Dhol Faqir) is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Having moved far away from the open maidans and informal gatherings of village life, divorced from the dargah culture which gave birth to the various schools of sufi music, modern performers are a different breed from Ghafoor. Electronic media and stage performances have created new musical forms and changed the relationship between the singer, the audience and the source of inspiration; the latter is, perhaps, now commercial success and money, rather than devotion to the murshid or participation in a life centred around his dargah. Courtesy: Faqeer Abdul Ghafoor (1910-1986) By Amenah Azam Ali (Courtesy: The Herald, August 1986)