Artist for preserving traditional musical instruments

Published October 14, 2019
Zainullah Jan performs at a musical concert. — Dawn
Zainullah Jan performs at a musical concert. — Dawn

PESHAWAR: Noted Chitrali sitar player Zainullah Jan has asked the provincial culture department to preserve traditional musical instruments to enrich live music as the art of making musical tools is fading away in the province.

He said that not only he could play Chitrali sitar but also could craft it. He said that he introduced several innovations in the main body of Chitrali sitar to enrich its sound. Recently he has crafted a modified sitar by putting strings on a tin can, which he claimed was the first ever in the music history.

Recipient of numerous awards, Mr Jan has been to UK, France, Russia, Dubai and Afghanistan on official tours. He claimed credit for inclusion of Chitrali sitar in Pashto music orchestra and popularising its tunes. He said that Chitrali sitar used to be played in Pakhtun hujra like rabab but the electronic appliances caused considerable damage to traditional folk music.

Zainullah Jan says electronic gadgets have caused damage to folk music

He told this scribe that he had served Pashto folk music for the last over four decades and garnered great appreciation from the audience and music buffs. He said that the authorities concerned were not doing much to preserve the traditional musical instruments.

Zainullah Jan, 53, a resident of Umarzai area in Charsadda district, said that he was a carpenter-cum-mason by profession but also remained affiliated with sitar playing for the last over four decades and performed on the state-run TV and radio. He said that he learnt sitar playing from Ajab Khan Ustad, when he was 13.

“The culture department should take steps to preserve traditional musical instruments because it is identity of our culture. A common sitar has seven strings on its body but I have set 22 strings on my sitar to enable it to produce sound in accompaniment with any other foreign musical orchestra. Flourished in the 16th century, Chitrali sitar was adopted by Pakhtun musicians but used to be played as single stringed instrument,” said the artist.

He recalled that in October, 2017, he visited Paris where around 6, 000 people attended the musical event and he got standing ovation for his solo performance. He said that many people gathered around him after the show and took down notes regarding the art of sitar playing.

Mr Jan said that he had his own music band known as Malang Performers. He said that there were only four to six sitar players, who could perform live, in KP. He said that the art of crating sitar was on decline as even music directors mostly depended on electronic appliances. He said that there was no substitute for traditional musical instruments.

Zainullah Jan is also a poet and has brought out four Pashto poetry collections.

He has a plan to write history of sitar and its significance in Pashto folk music.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2019

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