A few years ago, I was a guest on a private TV channel talking about my music, when we received a live caller on the show.

“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” he said to me, “Coming from an educated family and doing the work of a Meeraasi!”

The host got very flustered and wanted to cut him off and take the next call, but I wanted to reply to him.

“Brother,” I said, “I don’t know what your name is, but I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for counting me amongst the Meeraasis! Do you know who the Meeraasis are? They are the ones because of whom there is still some culture left in this country of ours!”

The name Meeraasi comes from the Arabic word Meeraas, which means ‘heritage’. In medieval times, the bards who were the keepers of the histories, stories, genealogies, poetry and music of Northern India were known as Meeraasis. Many of them became students of Hazrat Amir Khusrau, the 12th Century scholar/mystic/poet/musician of the court of Delhi and disciple of Hazrat Nizamudin Awliya of the Sufi Chishtiya order.

As historians of heritage, they were given the honorable title of Nasab Khwan which later just became Khwan Sahab.

In the changing political and social climate of the subcontinent, the Meeraasis tried to preserve their knowledge by organising themselves into a close-knit community. A subsection of the Meeraasis, adopted the name of Rabaabis; they trace their descent from Bhai Mardana – the famous disciple of Hazrat Guru Nanak – who used to play the Rubab for his teacher.

Today in Pakistan the word Meeraasi is often used in a derogatory way to denote someone who is involved in some lowly immoral activities. That the original meaning of the word has shifted by 180 degrees – from when it used to denote a person who was the ‘inheritor’ of culture till today when it is used for someone of ‘inferior’ rank and quality – speaks volumes about the devolution of our own cultural values.

In the face of opposition from an increasingly conservative society, many people of Meeraasi families were forced to give up their heritage and many opted to marry outside of their communities and change their names. But there are still many left who doggedly continue to pursue their true vocation – music and the transference of oral knowledge.

At one time, the Meeraasis were patronised by kings and aristocrats of the courts and by Sheikhs of Sufi Khanqahs. Many received titles by their patrons and founded Gharanas or Households of their individual styles of music such as the Pattiala, Shaam Chauraasi and the Gwaliar Gharana. After partition their livelihood suffered because the state of Pakistan never accepted its responsibility as Patron of the Arts. Initially, they found refuge in the orchestras of the country’s new film industry. But when the government of Ziaul Haq clamped down upon all cultural activity that was perceived as ‘immoral’, the Meeraasis found themselves on the road.

When urban Pop music started to spread in the 80s, all the new Pop stars would use Meeraasi session musicians in their live performances and studio recordings, because their skill was matchless. Even today a lot of session work in music studios throughout Pakistan is done by musicians who come from a Meeraasi background. But because of their lack of modern education, and perceived backwardness, they are often exploited by promoters, producers and other musicians.

Over the years people from the Meeraasi community have formed their own slang and expression, which people from ‘educated’ backgrounds find difficult to relate to. Many Meeraasis of Punjab call themselves Dharhis, which was originally a name for the bards of ancient Punjab who used to recount heroic ballads on the Dhad or Dugdudi instrument. The Dharhis take pride in their knowledge of music, and fondness for food and jokes, often laughing at their own expense.

There is a story of the Dharhi musician who lay down on the railway tracks with a bag full of meat and Karela vegetables. A passerby asked him what he was doing and he answered:

“I’m committing suicide because there is no appreciation left for music!”
“What is the use of the meat and Karela then?”
“Well, perhaps the train could be late!”

There’s another story of how a Meeraasi was asked why he wasn’t fasting during Ramazan. He answered: “Because life is a journey; and it is not mandatory to fast during a journey!"

The Meeraasis are single handedly responsible for preserving the great music and poetry of this land composed in the last thousand years. They are also amongst the best musicians on the planet and start teaching their children music before they’ve learnt how to speak. The rigorous music training they make their children go through is unparalleled in any music school of the world. A Meeraasi friend and colleague once told me:

Do you know why we are such accomplished musicians? It’s because we have been vulcanised in an atmosphere of critisism!

In spite of a dearth of music venues and commercial cultural activity in the country, today there is an increasing number of young musicians from Meeraasi backgrounds who have received a sound education and are becoming savvy in the ways of the world. Through their association with other musicians they are being exposed to other music from around the world. Some have chosen to go commercial, while others are trying to preserve their classical heritage. The main thing is that they should be given the opportunity in their own country to do the music which they enjoy doing the most.

Arieb Azhar is a singer songwriter based in Islamabad. He studied Philosophy and Indology from the University of Zagreb in Croatia, where he also used to lead an Irish Celtic World Music band. Learn more about him here.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (94)

Awais Yaqub
September 17, 2013 1:32 pm

Interesting.

Amjad
September 17, 2013 2:23 pm

Today I learned about Meerasis and their culture

Imran
September 17, 2013 2:31 pm

Lovely article. meerasis are indeed the torchbearers of our traditions and culture and their art must be protected and preserved.

Harjit Singh Dhanoa
September 17, 2013 2:48 pm

Very interesting article, we punjabies Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus have forsaken our language resulting in loss of our cultural heritage.

Guru Nanak Dev ji's closest friend & disciple who was a meerasi was called Bhai Mardana a revered figure in Sikh scriptures, whose 'peeri' still lives in Lahore ( Bhai Lal ) who carried on with the tradition of singing Gurbani in Gurudwars pre and post partition and remain devout Muslims, a unique phenomenon in today's strife torn world!

dr vimal raina
September 17, 2013 2:49 pm

Bhai, maza aa gaya!

Indian
September 17, 2013 2:54 pm

Lovely ... Your articles are always are that whiff of fresh air amidst the daily clutter of politics, terrorism, etc. You keep bringing the minutest of history that has otherwise become irrelevant. Please keep up the good work :)

SUNIL
September 17, 2013 3:15 pm

They are the real endangered species at a time when radicals could brand them as un-islamic and persecute them.

Tajammal
September 17, 2013 4:11 pm

They (Meerasis) also called themselves from the "MEERAS OF HAZRAT ALI K.W.)

Tahir A
September 17, 2013 4:15 pm

A beautifully written article. These things are not easy to express over as eloquently as one would do in Urdu or Punjabi. You did extremely well.

As youngsters and belonging to a fairly conservative family, we were banned from going to the cinema. Except on Eid day when that handsome "Eidi money" of a shilling was enough to sneak through the home security barrier for a whale of a time watching an old time black and white Bollywood classic at a cinema. However, the experience was only to be spoilt when the little accompanying sister would spill the beans and we would then get a thrashing of a life time ("Maraasian di aulad")

On the radio, listening to songs was considered less "maraasi-pun". But Shakeel Badayouni's tantalising lyrics like "Pardaa nahin jab koi khudaa se, Bando se pardaa karnaa kyaa, Jab pyaar kiyaa to darnaa kyaa" would be enough to switch off the radio with ami up in arms "tobah, tobah, astaghfar".

Robust Kumar
September 17, 2013 4:19 pm

Lovely article. Late Naina Devi told us once that after Indian Independence in 1947 someone in the All India Radio had difficulty in inviting many female singers who were “Bais”. Sardar Patel smilingly solved the problem and suggested that they should and could be called “Devis”.Could not these Mirasis have been called Ustads to solve this problem ?

Robust Kumar
September 17, 2013 4:23 pm

The article starts with the insult hurled at the writer. Yes, many people do not know that it was through oral tradition that cultural heritage and history has been preserved in so many places. Todd an English man understood it and reconstructed the history of Rajasthan from that tradition and wrote his Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan. An IAS officer now dead, Dr.K.S. Singh wrote about the Santhal Parganas from a similar oral tradition and became a famous anthrologist.

noobguy
September 17, 2013 4:41 pm

sorry for deviating from the 'wonted' set of comments about very bright and luminous article. But allow me to share a cold reality. Many, yes more than about 70 percent, Meerasis do not 'inherit' or 'preserve' culture these days. They register western, that is 180 degree out of phase, culture through thier music. These 'Merasis' have tainted the 'true Merasis'. Hence Merasi word comes to be denoting those musician now a days who produce tumultuous music inspired by western musicians. This has ultimately made Merasi word sound disrepectful for it promotes uncivilized, anti-social, anti-subcontinent-culture, which is actually European style. This is how Merasi word is used in a derogatory sense for those musicians. I dont think anybody would call Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan 'Merasi' (derogatory).

G.A.
September 17, 2013 4:44 pm

People like the caller who called you a meerasi derogatorily are either a miserable lot, who shun music and TV, or are hypocrites who have no qualms about watching movies etc but look at the performers with disrespect.

FACT
September 17, 2013 5:07 pm

I congratulate you for being such a great MEERASI.

observer
September 17, 2013 5:11 pm

What an eye opener of an article. The younger generation needs to be sensitised to their own culture and heritage before it is too late. In India an organisation called SPICMACAY is doing a great deal of work amongst school and college students.

Addy
September 17, 2013 5:31 pm

When I lived in the Punjab another word frequently used to denigrate people of the Arts was 'Kanjar'. Hope someone could explain the history behind that as well.

Manzer Munir
September 17, 2013 5:38 pm

Good job Arieb, great article! Informative and interesting laced with a joke or two. Sadly, arts and culture is indeed on life support ever since Zia islamized the country with the Shariah mentality.

Ron Luce
September 17, 2013 6:22 pm

Very nice article.

Paksitan is not the only country that has this tension between creativity and religious devotion.

In America, the old music is revered and the new music condemned.

Often, a new music gets severely condemened by preachers -- (like Rock and Roll) -- and then is later adopted in the religious experience. I have never heard of any of those preachers going back and apologizing to the artists they condemned.

SUB
September 17, 2013 6:19 pm

This is a very good article however these days it’s kind of fashionable to criticize Gen. Zia in all aspects of life that we have degraded ourselves in last couple of decades. It’s been almost 25 years since the general passed away and a LOT many people have been in a position of authority to make some positive changes to the curses that he inflicted upon this nation and country. As far as I can recall in the mid 80s & later it was still not as bad a time for the music & culture of our country. I remember watching a few very good Hollywood movies on PTV in this era when few people had access to dish or VCRs. And a few great songs sung by the top artists of the era in romantic, patriotic & film category.

Meerasee or the professional singers had almost always been a rejected lot of the society since Islam became the dominating religion of this subcontinent. People would admire the musicians, respect them and pay them heavily however when it came to giving them an equal & respectable status, with a few exceptions all of them have been denied these privileges of equality

And Merasee are not the exception. Class system something that Muslims in the subcontinent have inherited from their Hindu forefathers has always existed and has penetrated our blood & bones

kemariwala
September 17, 2013 6:26 pm

Simply wonderful, you opened up a new vision for me. so grateful for it.

Omar
September 17, 2013 6:27 pm

Respect to all Meerasis...!

Feroz
September 17, 2013 6:36 pm

Very lovely and an educational write-up. Hindustani Shastriyya Sangeet died in Pakistan soon after the partition of India. Meeraasis indeed are the only one still carrying that mantle. We now have ‘besuras’ of coke studio type ruling the roost. Even though the blogger touches upon the contribution of the muslim artists to the North Indian Classical Music (Shastriyya Sangeet) but that aspect of it needs to be talked about in a greater detail. I sincerely hope that the Arieb Azhar would continue with part-2 to detail this fabulous part of our heritage. My Guruji, a Hindu Khalifa of a Muslim Tabla Gharana, often mentions that without Muslim contribution, Indian music will sound nothing like what it sounds today. In reality, out of 6 prominent Tabla Gharanas, only one is Hindu (Banaras Gharana). Where did things go wrong in Pakistan? It is convenient to blame Zia Ul Haq for that, but it is a little more complicated than that. It is our desire to be more Arabic than to be true to our Indian roots. Thank you Arieb Azhar.

TKhan
September 17, 2013 6:57 pm

Mariachis are a form of Hispanic/Mexican folk music groups. Initially these groups played indigenous instruments, however, later on introduced modern instruments in their music. Government of Mexico has taken a lot of pride in promoting, supporting and helping Mariachis as an important part of Mexican Culture. I see some similarities between Meeraasis and Mariachis.

I don't understand Why Meerasis are looked down upon as musicians whereas Junoon and other groups are glorified? All are providing entertainment and they all should be respected & loved by their respective followers.

V. C. Bhutani
September 17, 2013 7:07 pm

In 1970 I happened to be in Kabul for a fortnight. I was at the service of Ustad Vilayat Khan, the sitar maestro. He had Pandit Samta Prasad to accompany him on the tabla. In due time, Pandit Samta Prasad’s daayaan was breached. He sent me to have it repaired. The driver took me to a place which the locals called Mohalla Meerasiyan. The gentleman was happy to have been asked to repair table for an Indian tabla master. In conversation he showed no sense that the word meerasi meant anything other than what we understand as ‘musician’. It was merely a descriptive word. I am delighted to have read this article by Arieb Azhar. More power to him. V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, 17 Sep 2013, 1940 IST

Feudal_Lord
September 17, 2013 7:40 pm

I wish I was born to Mirasi family instead of feudals.

Anand
September 17, 2013 8:14 pm

You brought a breeze of fresh air.

Parwaiz Abidi
September 17, 2013 8:37 pm

Hello Arieb,

You have just the right attitude towards people who have worked so hard to keep up with the traditions of our lands. You have the right mindset and say the right things to uphold and correct the wrongs that the uneducated of the world fling towards the musicians.

Yes the music has somewhat tilted towards the singing girls but that too is a twisted use of it by our sexual deprived masses who always look down upon those unfortunate women who sing as a profession in the enclosed 'Red Light Districts'.

I wish what Bade Ghulam Ali Khan said that the world would have few problems if every hold teaches their kids classical music or introduction to some form of arts.

Yes one has to compete in this world but we do not only need doctors, engineers and scientist. We need to look at the future of society and envision what we will inherit in the next 100 years. Musicians offer a continuous history of its language and arts.

I offer Late Mehdi Hassan as a good example where he introduced me to the true meaning of poetry through music.

jagga
September 17, 2013 8:51 pm

fyi, Meeraas often also refer to themselves as Mir too and are a respectable zaat---

noobguy
September 17, 2013 9:10 pm

sorry for deviating from the 'wonted' set of comments about very bright and luminous article. But allow me to share a cold reality. Many, yes more than about 70 percent, Meerasis do not 'inherit' or 'preserve' culture these days. They register western, that is 180 degree out of phase, culture through thier music. These 'Merasis' have tainted the 'true Merasis'. Hence Merasi word comes to be denoting those musician now a days who produce tumultuous music inspired by western musicians. This has ultimately made Merasi word sound disrepectful for it promotes uncivilized, anti-social, anti-subcontinent-culture, which is actually European style. This is how Merasi word is used in a derogatory sense for those musicians. I dont think anybody would call Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan 'Merasi' (derogatory).

BILAL
September 17, 2013 9:44 pm

I think we need to decide which culture we want to Own and inherit to our Children. If someone is proud of being a Meerasi then its ok with me as long as he accepts the fact that I am proud of being inherited from Rich Islamic Culture ( now please don't think of Taliban, They are not representing Islam. Thanks). and I don't understand since when definition of "CULTURE" has been narrowed down to music, dance, poetry only. My Islamic culture offers me a vast vision in every aspect of life and from all over the world. so I will choose that instead of following Gharanay of Musicians.

yousafhaque
September 17, 2013 9:52 pm

I thank you Arieb for such a realistic write.I have always been an advocate of people like you,who are the true preservers of our culture

M5
September 17, 2013 10:28 pm

Respected Arieb Azhar: Your meeraas might be ok for the sake of preserving culture but please don't mix it with Islam. There is no provision of Naach, Gaana or Music in Islam. The followers of the Muslim Sufi's may have been involved in music but it still does not give a blanket approval that it is allowed.

Additionally Hazrat Guru Nanak (as you said) was a founder of Sikh Religion so please don't confuse young muslims.

amir iqbal
September 17, 2013 10:39 pm

Well said brother, God bless you for your research and sharing how the culture was depressed to kill the heritage. Allas, our Meeraasi live long. They are contributing very well to keep the culture and heritage alive despite being paid very low.

amir iqbal
September 17, 2013 10:41 pm

@Amjad: It is not their culture, it is our culture they are protecting.

shahid
September 17, 2013 10:44 pm

Thanks for writing this article. It is time that we recognize our musical heritage and patronize those who are keeping it alive.

Myra Malik
September 17, 2013 11:01 pm

A very well researched article .this is what happens when a nation ignores its history.i hope after reading this the "jahilouns" shall stop using the word "meerasi" in a derogatory manner :)

Nasir Jamal Khan
September 17, 2013 11:05 pm

One is 'meerasi' if he sings on the street for few rupiahs, but an 'artist' if makes millions. Similarly, one is 'mauchi' if he repairs shoes on the street, but a "respected businessman" if sells shoes in the mall. Sighhhh!! such is our cultural!

Moody
September 17, 2013 11:13 pm

Great article and what a piece of Knowledge......Thank you for reminding our generation of our rich history and Culture... I hope our Desi-Land will become a Normal country ... ....

A very Sad Desi Expat from South East Asia....

SBB
September 17, 2013 11:16 pm

This is truly fascinating! I wish we had a chance to hear some music of the Meeraasis.. hope they live long lives and enrich ours further.

Muneeb
September 17, 2013 11:16 pm

Thanks for putting this together. To share some more, Miraasis used to memorize historical accounts and narrate them in a melody. Given that the history of the subcontinent was passed on through an oral not written tradition, the Brahmins sang religious accounts and the Miraasis historical accounts including those of battles and statesmanship. Hence their importance was like the importance of a library.

Faisal Raheel
September 17, 2013 11:37 pm

Very good article, but i want to do some little correction and inform you that Meeraasis and Rabbabies are different people. They are not the same, Meeraasis were the muslims from the starting period of the ISLAM, They are only one nation who Kiss the Mohra Mubarak of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH). They travel from Arab to subcontinent. And Bhai Mardana was the long time companion of Baba Guru Nanak Dev. and He was not meerasi but he was born in Muslim family but his family's forefathers were Hindu cast of Brahman. Bhai Mardana Played Rabab the music instrument. Thats ways his family called Rabbabi , (Rabbab Bajany Walay) Meerasi were Muslim from since 1400 yrs. And the Rababi adopt islam. But they are not the same.

Masoud
September 17, 2013 11:44 pm

Arieb Azhar in his posted song confesses that his group is charsi & bhangi. Who would listen to his bhashan on meeraasi. There is nothing to be proud about being a meeraasi.

"There’s another story of how a Meeraasi was asked why he wasn’t fasting during Ramazan. He answered: “Because life is a journey; and it is not mandatory to fast during a journey!"

This is what can be expected of a meeraasi. By the way Amir Khusru was a musician of his time. Claims of him being a saint is absurd.

Arif Khan
September 18, 2013 12:03 am

Bravo Arieb!! You enrich our lives. Thumbs down (N) for all those who do not appreciate music or respect those who make it.

Noman Qadir
September 18, 2013 12:39 am

Always an absolute pleasure to read your blog!

Shangara
September 18, 2013 1:36 am

Great articlee which acknowldges the great Arabic heritage and instill pride in Pakistan keeping the soul of being essentially a real Meersasi Mulaq.

Ameer
September 18, 2013 2:48 am

Great Article. Early on Muslim Sufis had realized that in India, for any religion to succeed there had to be four or five essential components in that religion 1- it must be colorful with a lot of festivals and occasions 2- it must have an element of music in it as by Nature people of Indian sub continent were highly inclined in musical arts 3- It must have a very strong element of " personality worship" and last but not the least, such a religion should bear strong metaphysical presence and its Saints should be able to compete and defeat spiritual and metaphysical skills of other nations. In this background, Hazrat Nizam-ud-di Aulia through his learned disciple Amir khusroo promoted music. Because of this patronage, many musician families from Afghanistan, central Asia, Iran and Turkey travelled and settled in India. It is sad to see how these very well learned people of superior intelligence have been degraded in our society. What a shame for us.

Abbas Syed
September 18, 2013 2:49 am

Growing up in Karachi, I had very often heard brawling individuals hurling at each other "Abay o Meeraasi ki aulad" or simply "Abay o Meeraasi". I did not what the word Meeraasi meant, but understood that it must have some pejorative connotation otherwise why would one use it only when he is angry.

Thanks Areib Azhar for the insightful article that traces the history of Meeraasi and their legacy in our south Asian history.

Mohammad Haider
September 18, 2013 6:16 am

It's about time we realize that we AREN'T Arabs (even if some of us have a 700 year old Arab ancestry) but are from the SUBCONTINENT. Let's follow our OWN culture, and not ARAB culture.

uzma
September 18, 2013 6:36 am

Areeb we saalm you for such great and informative writing on music.You are not only great singer but a great human bieing also.

NASAH (USA)
September 18, 2013 6:45 am

@Amjad: Today I learned about OUR Mirasis and OUR forgotten culture. Thanks Arieb sahib for re- educating me.

khan in chandler
September 18, 2013 7:46 am

why thumbs down. I sing here in the US for fun as well as semi-professionally. I have two degrees, one in Geophysics from University of Texas and one in Computer Science from Arizona State, so not only I am highly educated but also according to my mother a Meerasi. My mother calls me a Meerasi as a token of her love as I have inherited her beautiful voice and her love of this fine art. This is a blessing from God, and I really enjoy it. I am glad you are proud to be called as Meerasi as I am, and you know what, the world calls us; "The Artists" as not everybody is blessed with this beautiful gift. Enjoy it as it will not be with us for ever.

Omar Khan
September 18, 2013 8:42 am

Thumbs up man!!!!!!!!!.... and thanks for sharing all this beautiful info. .....people really don't know anything about these.................Stay blessed.

Zuhaib
September 18, 2013 9:14 am

A great read indeed! Thanks Arieb for writting this piece of info

Farhan Bogra
September 18, 2013 10:18 am

Lovely

Muhammad Khurram
September 18, 2013 11:11 am

Good, you are really professional you have very good knowledge about your stuff. niceman.

usafsajid
September 18, 2013 11:39 am

I know only thing that ALLAH loves those who are poise and obey HIM. There is no caste-ism in Islam, if exist that are only for identification.

vijaychennai
September 18, 2013 11:40 am

Very interesting. Here in Tamilnadu, the village head is called as "Mirasudar" the title of which passes from the father to the son and so on.

Haris
September 18, 2013 11:49 am

The "meerasis" could teach us all a lesson in discipline and hard work.

Haaim
September 18, 2013 12:54 pm

You are amazing MIRASEE, morally good and thought provoking. Salute you. Kindly, use Khwan (from Nasan Khwan as you mentioned) with your name like heritage-preserving mate Rahat Fateh Ali Khwan. An eye opening article from your side.

imran
September 18, 2013 1:00 pm

So great article.....thoroughly explained the word meeraasi...used 100 years back...but caller used this, which stand for some thing different in recent times...so both are right..

pervaiz vandal
September 18, 2013 3:51 pm

Well done Arieb

Muquarrab QURESHI
September 18, 2013 3:52 pm

Thank you for this very informative article! It's a shame that our society continues to stereotype people in silos. Keep writing and educating us.

Muquarrab

Asif
September 18, 2013 4:07 pm

@SUB: A good realistic evaluation, late Gen Zia is the punching bag for all and sundry but we don't realize that he died more than a quarter century ago, nothing has changed instead things stand worse today as has been pointed out by worthy reader. The way things stand today we are heading for a complete knock out culturally all over the world. We stand extincted in all departments of life, look at the sports scenario, we stand humiliated and out.

SUB
September 18, 2013 4:13 pm

@Robust Kumar: Ustad is a higher rank, every singer/ musician can not be called Ustad

Erfan Ahmed
September 18, 2013 4:34 pm

@SUB: I would like to point out two misconceptions; one, that it is fashionable to criticize Zia even 25 years after his death. The fact is that Bhutto and Zia caused more damage to Pakistan than anyone else or that could be undone in even 50 years and so it is indeed heartening to see that people are at least realizing the facts. The scope of the damage is such that it would be nothing short of a miracle to undo the harm to the society. Second, we should take ownership of our follies and not lay the responsibility at the feet of our Hindu ancestry. After all, it is the religious bigotry which is leading to the class system and not the culture. Great article!

Ghanashyam Alva M
September 18, 2013 5:22 pm

Thank you for the article on Meeraasi. Art & music will definitely connect the Indian sub-Continent. Let the Meeraasi tradition live a long life in Pakistan

Ali
September 18, 2013 6:36 pm

The world Meerasi is not the issue here, yes it may have deep meaning, may be some of them would have been disciples of great intellectuals & saints like Amir Khusro & Nizamuddin Aulya (rehma tulla alahi). However, the Meerais is generally referred to people who make dancing, singing, playing music their means of income, live in the company of women who dance in public or to earn money. Music for the right reason or purpose with control is healthy, but music in general get people into indulgence, compulsive behavior, they cannot live without it, so much so it takes away from the real purpose of life, to do good deeds to please Allah & prevent oneself from the tribulations of life & hereafter. Tribulations (fisadul ard, fitna) mean something which impact internally or the society in a negative way.
The impact of music in the west is related to saturday night fever, bars & the fun Islam does not permit. No hard feelings!

Saad
September 18, 2013 6:43 pm

Well phrased Arieb! Keep the music alive and never look down upon what you are passionate about!

Kamil Gani
September 18, 2013 7:02 pm

you're a true marasi! :p hahaha....

Naveed Ahmad
September 18, 2013 7:05 pm

Simple rule of sunnah is to weigh the traditions and cultural values against the principles of islam. If they fit accordingly, adopt and continue with them, if they do not fit, throw them away.

All companions of prophet Muhammad adopted this rule and threw cultural values and traditions of thousands of years which were contrary to principles of islam. They never doubted and did not went astray. May Allah be pleased with them all.

Khalid
September 18, 2013 7:26 pm

"Excellent article" This is the very culture of Pakistan, that is being erradicated by the hypocrites and zealots of Pakistan. These people are artists in their own right, who contribute to the culture of Pakistan, and they should be "praised" for their contributions.

Pankaj
September 18, 2013 7:49 pm

If we study these great mirasis's lyrics and music in a proper comprehensive and composite ways. A lot of historical mysteries of Indian subcontinent may be unearthed and resolved. Ideally, there should be an institution to preserve and innovate this traditional knowledge, otherwise danger is that we will loose it forever.

dada
September 18, 2013 8:23 pm

Mirasi word might be Arabic. But it seems it is more Darbari word. All music, dance, Ayurved, Shringar, Math & Science came from temples. When music and dance went to alien darbars it lost its sanctity.

Reading on internet here in America, I wanted my kids to learn authentic Indian music and so enrolled them for learning dhrupad style singing from one of the Dagar Bandhu family. On the first day itself I found whole ambiance disgusting though opulent. Mind that Dagars were Bramhin Pande in 16th century. They converted to Islam for Darbari patronage like Tansen. Life style was nauseating and without any sanctity for music and its divine origin (Ma Saraswati). The father who went to France every year had no control. His sons in thirties were chain smokers and tea drinkers - they even did that during the class / practice. I could see that Mother Saraswati had run away long time. Later in the evening I called Asha tai. She told to stop the class. She told, 'if she had to relive her life again then she would keep herself away from such ustaads and teachers. Since the music is no more temple music it has detrimental effect on psyche of individual, families and society. " She told to teach singing by Bhajans and if there is a class run in the temple to attend that.

farhan khan niazi
September 18, 2013 8:45 pm

beautiful article

Mohammad Asghar
September 18, 2013 8:56 pm

Very informative. Excellent job.

Parviz . Sani
September 18, 2013 9:53 pm

Arieb has brilliantly traced the history of Meeraasis and provided the information on contribution of Meeraasis in the cultural developments in our subcontinent

Tariq
September 18, 2013 11:29 pm

Article well written in terms of the content. However, the bigger question is "who are we"? We need to work on to develop our own culture whose roots lies in the teachings of Islam and whose ideals are our beloved Sahaba's. I think we should not loose our focus. All other things are relevent only if it fits into this focus. Arieb - You are a good writer, so let us use the skills for something larger and more bigger and InshAllah Allah would reward you. Hope I am coming across ..

TheoPasha
September 19, 2013 12:23 am

@M5: read the article please. It is people like you who have destroyed Pakistan'a great musical heritage. Let people choose whether or not they want to listen or play music. This is not the state's or religion's business.

taran
September 19, 2013 12:24 am

great article. music has a great importance in Sikhism. and mardana was best friend of Guru Nanak ji. he never left Guru ji alone. he stayed with Guru ji and traveled half of World with Him. he was a great musician and Guru ji was a great singer.

maimoona khan
September 19, 2013 12:57 am

good one and nice writeup

Sonal
September 19, 2013 1:15 am

Very insightful blog! Coming from India, I had never heard the word 'meeraasi', or its use as a pejorative. I shall ask my Pakistan-born Punjabi-speaking father what 'meeraasi ki aulad' means :)

So is there a particular kind of music meeraasis perform, or is it just cultured music in general?

I went to a Pakistani play few weeks ago - the music was very similar to Indian music - instrumental tabla, sarangi, etc. but it was absolutely outstanding. The musicians looked like the Rabaabis pictured here.

Sonal
September 19, 2013 1:31 am

@Tahir A:

Hello! I was wondering how the word is used in practice - now I can envision :)

And, great news.....

Taha Rafy
September 19, 2013 1:40 am

article :)

Sukhdev Sandhu
September 19, 2013 2:36 am

Torchbearers of our shared traditions and culture are Meeraasi. Just imagine the music without these contributors. Mohd. Rafi, Noor Jehan, Shamshad Begum, Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Ustaad Bade Ghulam Ali, Ustaad Nurast Fateh All, Ustaad Amanat Ali, Baba Chisti, Khayyam, Tufail Niazi and many more. All the classical music Gharana of our shared punjabi heritage were Meeraasis. Most of the famous music directors of Pakistani films in it's golden era were Meeraasis.

Nate
September 19, 2013 2:59 am

Thank you. I agree with your views on the Mirasis and can only hope they can keep their traditions alive until a new epoch emerges in Pakistan

vigilant
September 19, 2013 3:58 am

Great Article

PiS
September 19, 2013 7:25 am

@BILAL: Every person who has ever used the term "Islamic Culture" has failed to elaborate on what it really is. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are both "Islamic" countries but their respective culture is poles apart. There is almost nothing in common.

Tahir Tanveer
September 19, 2013 8:52 am

After reading your excellant piece I listened to some of your music. I don't what to say, I am just speechless. Hats off to you !!

Sonal
September 19, 2013 3:56 pm

@Tahir A:

Hello! I was wondering how the word is used in practice... now I can envision :)

And, great news......

aks
September 19, 2013 6:25 pm

@PiS: Cultures are never religious, they belong tp the land that produces them. That is why your culture would be different from Arabic, and from Persian culture. Cuture needs ROOTS.

dada
September 20, 2013 1:04 am

I would like to know from the people here:

Which culture do you want to preserve? Rahat Fateh Ali does not want to pay tx on his earning in India and so brings cash stuffed in his luggage. His music which has questionable value and benefits.

Raagas and tunes have effect on human psyche. It has been scientifically proven. If music does not lead you to inner silence, to the "hollow and empty space" from which comes and which connects us all then that music is just a noise, it might temporarily tantilize the senses but nothing more. Keep it in mind that when Yahya was listening to Noorjahan's music his army whom he was leading were raping and killing in hundreds of thousands and over ten million were flee to the refugee camps in India.

Rao
September 20, 2013 6:40 am

People in the sub-continent look down on singers / actors, derisively referred as "naachgaanewala". This attitude has definitely effected the film industry in Pakistan. Punjabi elite were derisive about film industry personnel, because most of them were Bengalis. Death knell of Pakistan film industry happened when Bangladesh seperated and most Bengalis left Pakistan.

Omar Cheema
September 20, 2013 7:44 am

@PiS: alot fo times when pakistanis criticise islam, they are actually reffering pakistani islamic culture, not islamic theology from quran and Muhammad(pbuh). islam is not corrupt, pakistani islamic culture is corrupt, as is saudi arabian islamic culture, and especially indian islamic culture where biddah is more widespread than here in pakistan. probably because of closer promixity to hindusim.

Mazhar Ali
September 20, 2013 10:20 am

@Muneeb: When i saw this link on a side of a Pakistani news paper main page 1st i was impresed that there is some one who is willing to show us the real face to what wee coomett in our daliy lifes.Articale is beautifully composed ,containing allot off infirmation that could cange some ones mind.Do writes such kind of informative articles thanks.

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