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