PESHAWAR: Noted Pashto folk singer Hidayatullah passed away here on Saturday at his Peshawar residence, Kakshaal Qadeem, family sources confirmed.

Bedridden since long owing to multiple health complications, including memory loss, the folk singer breathed his last, leaving behind two widows, two sons and three daughters besides a large number of diehard fans. His funeral was offered at Sarhad Darul Aloom near Berasko Gate and he was laid to rest at his ancestral graveyard at Dag Besood, Nowshera district, the same day.

Radio, TV and stage artists and fans attended his funeral. Members of civil society, cultural organisations and the artist community have offered their condolences over the death of Hidayatullah and termed it a great loss for the Pashto folk music.

Known as Mohammad Rafi of Pashto, Hidayatullah was born in 1940 at Dag Besood, Nowshera district. Later, his family shifted to Peshawar where he passed his matriculation examination from Edwardes High School. He took up an employment in 1960 in the agriculture department and got retirement as a senior clerk in year 2000.

The folk artist was the recipient of President’s Award for Pride of Performance and numerous other awards of cultural organisations. The senior artist had been living in oblivion since 2004 owing to domestic issues followed by health problems and memory loss.

Hidayatullah had been to US, Europe and UAE and had sung songs in Pashto, Urdu, Hindko and Persian. His popular song in Hindko ‘Qissakhwani de Wechkaar’ that he had sung for the first and unfortunately last Hindko flick was released in 1980. The number of his hit tracks in Pashto was over 500.

The senior artist was in 8th grade when a schoolteacher had asked him to sing a song of Mohammad Rafi during a cultural event as he was inspired by his velvety voice.

After doing matric, he used to attend weekly Mehfil-i-Sama held at Darbar of Sufi Syed Abdul Sattar Shah Bacha Jan in Dabgari where one day his spiritual guide asked him to sing a Sufi Kalam and it became his regular routine to participate in Qawwali.

The artist had learnt basics of music from Abdul Karim aka Andaleeb Ustad and Khalid Malak and then walked up to Radio Peshawar in 1963 where he met great artists like Sabz Ali Khan Ustad, Gulab Sher Ustad, Khial Mohammad Ustad, Sherai Ustad, Ahmad Khan, Gulnar Begum and Kishwar Sultan who had already been working under the music directors, including Arbab Abdul Wadood Khan, Qazi Ahmad and Farrukh Sair Shama.

His maiden Pashto song aired from Radio Peshawar was ‘Der Karredealay Yema.’

Around 1969, Afghan King invited Hidayatullah as Rafi of Pashto to Kabul and honoured him as a state guest.

The non-stop journey of Hidayatullah catapulted him to the top when the first Pashto film ‘Yousaf Khan Sherbano’, released in Dec 1970, recorded songs in his voice.

The late folk singer had gained widespread reputation for his hit songs ‘Rasha Auo Rasha’, ‘Manzal Da Tolo Uew De Kho Safar Juda Juda’, ‘Tere Shwey Warze Da Khanda’ and ‘Yema Da Truck Driver’. Pashto movies for which Hidayatullah had sung songs include Deedan, Orbal, Jawargar, Da Pakhtun Tora, Alaqa Ghair and Ghazi Kaka.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2019