Series exploring musical instruments on verge of extinction launched

January 20, 2018


(L) Adnan Haider and Salman Adil perform at the event. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
(L) Adnan Haider and Salman Adil perform at the event. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: A series on musical instruments on the verge of extinction titled Saaz Kahani: the Story of Musical Instruments, premiered at Lok Virsa on Friday.

Each of the programme’s six episodes is dedicated to a unique Pakistani musical instrument.

The launch of the series featured musical performances by renowned folk and classical singer Wahdat Rameez, Zohain Hassan on the sarangi, Adnan Haider on the rabab and Salman Adil playing the flute.

The event was hosted by Tauseeq Haider, who spoke about how Lok Virsa Executive Director Dr Fouzia Saeed and the director of the series Khawaja Najamul Hassan decided to take the step to preserve the instruments showcased in the series.

Dr Saeed said: “We focused on instrumental music because vocal music still gets attention, but instruments get relegated to a secondary place.”

Zohaib Hassan, who traces his musical lineage through six generations of sarangi players, including Ustad Hussain Buksh Amritsari, Ustad Natthu Khan and Ustad Peeru Khan, demonstrated the unique style of sarangi playing that his family is known for. The approach uses all four fingers on the left hand, as opposed to the more common three finger approach, allowing players to achieve greater speed and agility.

Mr Hassan is one of Pakistan’s few remaining sarangi players. According to him, there are only four authentic sarangi players left in the country. He said: “It is a matter of grave concern that this music and these musicians are dying out. We need to preserve this music and part of the problem is that this is an expensive instrument that most people can’t afford. There are no institutions teaching instrument, and we need to teach this free of cost to save it.”

One of the oldest bowed instruments of the region, the body of the sarangi is hollow and made of teak wood adorned with ivory inlays.

Salman Adil runs his own academy where he teaches the flute, and has taught all the previous students of the flute at Lok Virsa’s music classes.

They were joined by Mohammad Amir on the tabla for a jugalbandi performance, which is described as a conversation between instruments.

The first piece was followed by a brief performance by Ustad Gulab Afridi on the rabab, who is also featured in the series.

Mr Afridi’s beautiful and sensitive piece mesmerised the audience Mr Hassan came to the podium to talk about how Saaz Kahani came to fruition.

He said the programme has been made in a simple manner to cater to a western audience and younger generations in Pakistan who are unfamiliar with this rich musical heritage.

The six minute series promo was screened, which gave the audience an overview of the programme.

The event closed with Wahdat Rameez on the harmonium, accompanied by the tabla and flute, performing a soulful rendition of two Faiz Ahmed Faiz ghazals and one by Shakeel Badayuni.

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2018