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To Thar, with love: Sufi band ‘The Sketches’ take the desert by storm

May 22, 2015

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Saif Samejo of The Sketches. — Photo courtesy: The Sketches' Facebook Page
Saif Samejo of The Sketches. — Photo courtesy: The Sketches' Facebook Page

An area otherwise known for its arid climate and pressing issues of drought, Tharparkar echoed with sound as Jamshoro-based sufi band 'The Sketches' decided to hold a concert on the sandy dunes of the desert.

Attended by Tharis, the concert which kicked off at 11:30pm saw music lovers get together to enjoy not only soulful music but rock as well.

Speaking to Dawn, the lead singer Saif Samejo shared the overwhelming response shown by the audience:

“The love showed to us by the people of Thar is incomparable. We don’t experience such warmth in Karachi, Lahore, Hyderabad or even Jamshoro.”

Being a sufi band, this is not the first time that The Sketches have toured the interior parts of the province which are cut off from the upscale towns and cities. However the love for music dwells in the very hearts of settlers here and they show immense respect to the musician as well music:

“Our car was parked almost 15-20 seconds away from the area where we were performing and believe me; it took us two hours to reach it — such is the love showered upon us in these places.”

Musician performs during the concert. — Photo courtesy: The Sketches' Facebook Page
Musician performs during the concert. — Photo courtesy: The Sketches' Facebook Page

“Many of the dwellers have hardly been out of the village so it was a fruitful venture for us as well.”

It is easy to associate villagers with folk and sufi music which tends to be deep and stirring but it turned out that the youngsters thoroughly enjoyed the rhythm and influx of guitar.

A Thari dances to the tunes. — Photo courtesy: The Sketches' Facebook Page
A Thari dances to the tunes. — Photo courtesy: The Sketches' Facebook Page

“Playing for a Sindhi crowd, we expected the crowd to solely enjoy Sindhi tunes but they really appreciated rock and heavy ones as well. Three of our songs were really popular namely 'Main Sufi Hon', 'Pakhi Pardes' and 'Eik Insaan'.”

Speaking about the message behind 'Pakhi Pardes', a Sindhi song, Saif elaborated that it revolved around a foreign bird which is normally hunted.

“The poet has described its flight as the sun sets in, alluding to the idea of beloved leaving the lover.”

Bands in the cities face numerous problems in setting up a stage so it’d be safe to assume that Saif and his team members would have gone through multiple issues before getting down to their concert; but is this so? Not quite.

“It wasn’t too difficult to set up there and we had taken our own equipment. Our stage was hoisted on the sand dunes and we played there only. After the concert ended, we were supposed to leave and didn’t plan to stay but the people invited and compelled us to stay and eat with them hence we had to extend our trip by one day."

People of Thar sit on the sand as they listen to the band playing different sufi songs. — Photo courtesy: The Sketches' Facebook Page
People of Thar sit on the sand as they listen to the band playing different sufi songs. — Photo courtesy: The Sketches' Facebook Page

"This purity of heart cannot be witnessed in the city. These people are plain and harbour love for traditions and art,” he shared.

However what really troubles Saif is not just the impediments faced by the Tharis in the form of drought and poverty rather it is the rising extremism which worries him.

“Yes, Tharis do face these issues but they have adapted to their surrounding, they have learnt to survive but with the current scenario, they greatly fear the extremists who are building many seminaries in the area. The people of Thar have inhabited the area for centuries and Hindus, Muslims alike live together in harmony. Religious extremism never existed in the region and Mosques and temples stood together."

Saif Samejo sits on a traditional 'moorha' as he sings for the audience. — Photo courtesy: The Sketches' Facebook Page
Saif Samejo sits on a traditional 'moorha' as he sings for the audience. — Photo courtesy: The Sketches' Facebook Page

But this time, we could sense the fear among the people. Something needs to be done about this as it will destroy the harmony of a place where people actually worship music and hold it in high regard." he pressed further.

He referred to the famous folk singer Sadiq Fakir whose funeral was attended by Hindus and Muslims in hoards as they stood in rows to receive the brier. He also lamented that the women were unable to attend the concert because of the growing tension in the area due to conflicts in faith.