An artisan makes a tabla at his workplace in Peshawar. — Dawn
An artisan makes a tabla at his workplace in Peshawar. — Dawn

PESHAWAR: The art of making traditional musical instruments is fast dying down due to lack of patronage of the artisans and emergence of electronic musical appliances over the last few decades, according to artisans and music experts.

Peshawar city has three workshops where only three artisans craft a few traditional musical instruments, including tabla, rabab, dholak, thumble and guitar, the latter being due to its similarity to traditional string instruments.

In the recent past, artisans in Swat, Mardan, Nowshera, Bannu and Peshawar used to craft traditional music instruments, but now the art is on the decline as only a few artisans have kept the art of crafting musical tools alive.

Culture directorate urged to preserve the art and craft

The local artisans complained about lack of official patronage for the art. They asked the KP culture directorate to preserve the art of making musical instruments if they wanted to promote folk music.

Rahim Mujtaba Metho, 47, told this scribe his father Rahim Bakhsh was the first artisan who had pioneered crafting musical instruments in Mohallah Shah Burhan near Chitrali Bazaar in Peshawar city during early 50s. He said his family had been in the business for 150 years.

He said he and younger brother, Rahim Ahmed Ali Chand, 42, had inherited the art of making instruments especially tabla and other string tools. He regretted that the art of crafting traditional musical instruments was fast dying in the city.

Mr Metho said the last few decades witnessed a declining trend in the local market for traditional instruments except rabab. He said his great grandfather had migrated from Punjab to KP before partition. He claimed his grandfather too had enjoyed popularity for being both a noted folksinger and as an artisan, but then his family gradually shifted to the art of crafting musical instruments only.

“I may not be that bad at singing, but I can also tune the instruments which I craft. Earlier, I used to get orders from Fata and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but the computer music coupled with militancy brought down my once thriving business,” the artisan narrated. He said he couldn’t leave the art because he didn’t know any other thing to earn enough to feed his five-member family.

“I am not transferring my art to my four sons because I see no future of the art. My one brother has already joined teaching profession. Strange to state, people proudly claim they love their country and culture, but hate its artists and never bother to preserve its art,” he said angrily.

Murad Khan Afridi, a popular tabla player, feared if the art of crafting musical instruments was not revived, the traditional folk music would soon embrace its natural death.

He said there were 25 to 40 tabla players in Fata and KP. He urged the KP government to preserve the art of crafting musical instruments.

When contacted, Akbar Khan Hoti, an official of KP culture directorate, said that his department in its recently-approved cultural policy draft had planned to preserve all handicrafts, including traditional musical tools.

He said that a senior artisan as representative of the artisan community had been included in the committee for awarding the monthly stipend. He said that Rahim Ahmed Ali Chand, younger brother of Rahim Mujtaba Metho, had already been awarded monthly stipend last year.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2018