PESHAWAR, March 2: In the post-9/11 scenario, we see a dwindling trend of art, heritage and music as militancy has adversely affected every sphere of our life.
Artists and singers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata have been threatened and kidnapped with some being forced to quit the profession.
During the last decade, Pashto music has lost artists and singers of high repute, some have preferred to seek political asylum abroad. Many are living a miserable life, receiving threats from militants has become a routine matter with them.
Banr in Swat and Dabgari in Peshawar were the two main music streets in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that worked as learning nurseries, where artists and singers used to transfer the art to their younger generations.
These places were targeted and Pashto traditional music suffered a serious setback. Hundreds of CD and DVD shops and music centres were also blown up.
Sardar Yousafzai, a popular singer from Swat, and Gulzar Alam from Peshawar were fired upon by militants, while Haroon Bacha, a young singer, took political asylum in the US following threats from extremists.
“Threats or no threat, our own people’s attitude towards music and singers has been hostile. Unless there is a change in mindset, the art of music will never flourish. Young female singers Rabia Tabbasum, Aiman Udas, Ghazala Javed, Anwar Gul ( tabla player), Shabana (dancer) died tragic deaths while noted Pashto folk singers Rasool Badshah and Zarshad Ali fell victim to fatal diseases and a senior versatile folk singer Kamal Masood hailing from South Waziristan had migrated to Rawalpindi following threats from militants where he succumbed to serious burn injuries at his rented home caused by a gas cylinder blast,” Ustad Nazeer Gul, a senior music director, said.
Akbar Hussain, 72, senior Pashto folk singer said: “Condition for Stifling environment for Pashto music in KP, Fata Pashto music is not favourable in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata in many ways, my elder son was kidnapped three years ago by militants but they released him very soon. The feeling of being attacked from militants is still looming large.”
Musharraf Bangash, a young singer, was kidnapped but was released after remaining for sometime in captivity of militants. Laiqzada Laiq, author and Station Director (SD) PBC, Peshawar who recently has brought a book on the evolution of Pashto music told this scribe:
“After digitalisation, Pashto music has gained widespread popularity, everyday a new singer joins Pashto music, music bands with new experimentation, too, are getting momentum. I don’t believe singers have received threats now from militants; most of them hype it in the local media just to gain the sympathy of some foreign donors. Yes, quality has suffered but quantitatively Pashto music today has more artists, instrumentalities and singers than it had a few years ago.”Sardar Yousafzai said that singers and artists in the scenic valley of Swat were still facing problems of insecurity and threats from militants.
“Hardly a week goes when I don’t receive threats from extremists but we have to fight back militancy. I am used to it now. We need to uphold our cultural identity at all costs,” he said.
Senior Pashto folk singers Zarsanga, Akbar Hussain, Hidayatullah, Gluab Sher, Mashooq Sultana and Qamru Jan are living a miserable life.
“There is an undeclared ban on playing music, artists and singers cannot perform live in Fata and in settled areas too they are reluctant to perform in open air on wedding ceremonies for fear being attacked by militants. Every moment the sound of music is being choked,” Tajwali Khan, a music buff, said.
Meanwhile, the Culture Journalists Forum (CJF) Peshawar and Takhleeq Development Foundation (TDF) Peshawar have joined hands to celebrate the World Music Freedom Day on Sunday (today) at 2pm at a local hotel on University Road, Peshawar.
Senior and young artists, singers and music connoisseurs will participate in the event, while issues and problems that are being faced by local artists and music maestros will also come under discussion.
The event is aimed at paying tribute to the artists and singers, who have contributed immensely to the art of singing despite odds and difficult times.