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The art of Shehnai

January 01, 2013

CHAKWAL, Dec 31: A local Shehnai artist is gaining international and local acclaim as his videos are now available on YouTube and members of his troupe have performed in Coke studio.

And it is all because Liaquat Ali, 44, has chosen to play the long-wooded instrument called Shehnai, a wind instrument which is a cross between a clarinet and a bagpipe.

Shehnai connects Pakistani music to India and Iran. From a distance Shenai might look like one of those wind instruments used by snake charmers but the long-wooded instrument has a class of its own.

World famous Ustad Bismillah Khan, known as the King of Shehnai who by his profound dexterity made the Shehnai immortal, had once remarked: “Even if the world ends, the music will still survive”.  Liaquat Ali seems to be keeping the legacy of Ustad Bismillah Khan alive in Pakistan, according to one local admirer.

Born in a small hamlet called Dhoke Hassu, some 20km away from Chakwal city, at the house of Late Mohammad Nawaz alias Baaj Khan, who was not only a great Shehnai master but was quite adroit on the Dhol (drum).

Like father like son, Liaquat Ali fell in love with his father’s art in an early age. He started playing Shehnai when he was a teenager.

When Gujrat’s famous Shehnai Master, the late Ustad Rehmat Ali came to Chakwal, the father requested the master to instruct his son in the ancient art.

Thus Liaquat Ali became the pupil of the legendry Shehnai Master from Gang Channar village of Gujrat, who moulded Liaquat into a great artist.

Liaquat Ali is also an integral member of Five Star Musical Group which consists of Chakwal’s famous folk singers Munir Hussain and Company, who recently mesmerised viewers at the set of Coke Studio.

Liaquat along with his team remains busy in rehearsals throughout the day in his office, near Tehsil Chowk. Songs by Noor Jahan and Ghulam Ali are among his favourites.

“I love my mother tongue and my culture that’s why I feel glad when I play Punjabi songs on Shehnai”, he said.

Plus Liaquat has to keep himself updated with the latest developments in contemporary music because at weddings he has to play music requested by guests.

“If a Shehnai master can’t play the music requested by the organisers or audiences, he doesn’t have the right to call himself a Shehnai master”, maintained Liaquat.

Besides contemporary music, Liaquat is also a great fan of Punjabi folk music. “My aim is to keep alive and promote the culture of my beloved Punjab through Shehnai”, he resolved.

But Liaquat like most regional musicians is upset with the apathy that the government has shown towards traditional music.

“Our rulers are doing nothing for the promotion and preserving of our rich culture and the artists here need state patronage — financial assistance — to make ends meet,” he complained.