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Decorated Baloch folk singer finds himself on the brink of financial ruin

Updated April 17, 2018

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Balochi folk singer Bashir Baloch relives memories of the colourful past that brought him no financial security. — Photo:  Abdul Waheed
Balochi folk singer Bashir Baloch relives memories of the colourful past that brought him no financial security. — Photo: Abdul Waheed
The folk legend has collected 132 awards over the span of his 50-year-long music career. — Photo:  Abdul Waheed
The folk legend has collected 132 awards over the span of his 50-year-long music career. — Photo: Abdul Waheed

"Take away these awards and instead do something for my children," pleads Balochi folk singer Bashir Baloch as he narrates the story of the dismal state that his long music career has left him in.

Wearing a traditional Balochi turban, the colours of which clash magnificently with his trimmed white beard, Baloch sits in a room where all his medals and awards are on display.

His house is located in Quetta's Deba area, which is a poor and marginalised neighbourhood of the city.

Baloch, a famous name in classic Balochi folk music, holds 132 awards including the Presidential Pride of Performance award to the Medal of Honour, and yet his living situation tells the story of poverty and deprivation.

"When I was 10 years old, I started singing songs in Balochi language and never really stopped since then," the legendary singer recalls with tears in his eyes.

While his mother language is Balochi, the local star can sing in Brahvi, Pashto, Persian, Sindhi, Saraiki, Hindko, Marwari, Punjabi and Urdu.

"These awards cannot feed my hungry children," says Baloch, who has sung in 10 different languages for the past 50 years.

"I tried my best to serve the country and nation through my songs," says the folk singer, who has been singing national songs and naghmas on PTV Bolan on many national occasions.

Baloch has six children of his own including four daughters and two sons. However, he has also adopted two sons.

"I need between Rs25,000 to Rs30,000 each month, in order to feed and educate my school going children," he said.

One of Baloch's son is studying in grade three, another in grade six, while one of his daughters studies in grade seven in the government-run Sandeman High School Quetta.

"At this point I cannot even afford to purchase books and bags from my children," he says.

Provincial secretary for culture Zafar Buledi, on the other hand, says Baloch's name has been included in the list of deserving artists, "to ensure a monthly stipend for him."

"The culture department has also sent a proposal to the provincial government for the establishment of an endowment fund to help bring deserving artists and singers in the province.

From a financial point of view, artists from Balochistan face hardships far worse than artists from any other province, Amanullah Nasar, a legendary Pashto artist tells DawnNewsTV. "I received a cheque for Rs2,830 a couple of days ago for the work I had done three years ago at PTV," says Nasar.

Baloch came into the limelight when his photo along with his many awards went viral on social media.

The folk singer lives in a poorly constructed house, given to him by PPP Balochistan president Ali Madad Jatak during the party's last tenure in power.

"I can neither work as a daily wager because of my old age nor I can beg," he says, explaining his miserable condition.

For years, Balochi, Brahvi and Pashto artists have not been paid by Pakistan Television's Quetta centre.

Artists believe that those who sing in Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi and Pashto are better off as they get to keep their language alive while still getting plenty of opportunities to share their craft with the world. Balochi artists, on the other hand, only get to perform for PTV, the Quetta centre of which has brought them to the brink of financial ruin.