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.
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.
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) http://www.the-reporter.info/2009/feb-march09/memoirs/index.htm