A recipient of Tamgha-i-Imtiaz (1999) and Husn-i-Karkardagi (2015), Sachu Khan from Dera Bugti in Balochistan is known throughout Pakistan and abroad for his mastery over the sarod.
He was invited by the German Consulate to play in Karachi at the opening ceremony of the recent exhibition ‘Lost and Found — Prehistoric Pottery Treasures from Balochistan’, and impressed both local and foreign guests with his perfection and control over the sarod. Here he talks about his art and folk artists in general.
Interest in the sarod
“I grew up watching my maternal uncle playing the sarod. We lived in Sindh at the time. I liked the sound so I started playing it at the age of about nine. Seeing my enthusiasm my uncle started teaching me. After his death in 1970, Zaaro a singer who was a friend of my uncle, encouraged me and took me to Radio Pakistan Quetta for a performance. Unfortunately, he too died in 1980. By now I had made a name for myself and a famous singer Mureed Balodi and I teamed up, and we became quite popular.
“In 1985, I was invited to Lok Virsa, Islamabad and won a sarod playing competition. A musicologist from France happened to be there, and impressed by my playing invited me to perform in France. I have been there three times so far and also played at venues in England, Italy, Jordan, Libya, Philippines and America on invitation. Later on, I developed a kidney infection and have since stopped travelling abroad for performances. I received an invitation to play in India recently but I will only go there once it is safe.”
Sachu Khan condems the government apathy towards ailing folk artists such as himself, while voicing hope for the future of the music instrument
“The sarangi is fading away but the sarod will continue as it is popular among young people in Balochistan and even Afghanistan. I too teach students and hold competitions as the instrument is quite popular in Sindh while Muneer Sarhadi is a recognised sarod player in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“There are many young people involved in sarod-playing here so there is nothing to worry about at present. My eldest son Riaz Hasan who plays the sarod quite well and has been invited by Dr Fauzia Saeed to Lok Virsa many times. He has also been invited to perform by the US Embassy in Islamabad. Private performances pay really well so I have no financial woes. I stopped performing for PTV as they give meagre financial remuneration to me and my musicians. We have to travel 600 kilometers from Dera Bugti in Sui to Quetta and back on our own resources, and only get paid Rs25,000.”
History of the sarod
“The sarod has descended from the baoora which was played in local kacheris and weddings for centuries. I changed the music by adding ragas, before it was just folk music which consisted of stories. I have also changed a bit of the instrument.
“The quality of the sarod is not the same as good sarod-makers are now dying out. I was offered Rs300,000 to sell my sarod to foreigners but refused as the wood is of very fine quality not easily available. You can get a reasonably good sarod these days for Rs12-15,000.
“Sarod players don’t receive any government funding or encouragement. I approached the government to help me for the treatment of my kidney problem but I haven’t received any response from them till now.”
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, January 10th, 2016