Preserving culture through performing arts
By: Sher Alam Shinwari
PESHAWAR: Due to the threat of extremism and militancy in the tribal areas, many professional singers and artists have either quit their profession or left for safer havens.
Hailing from an aristocratic family of Kurram Agency, Naeem Turi is the only surviving amateur singer in the region. He has taken it upon himself to keep cultural activities in his area alive despite the hostile environment surrounding him. Born in the Biliyamin village in Parachinar, Turi obtained a Masters degree in Social Work and English Literature from the University of Peshawar in 1997.
He launched his singing career in 2002 and began performing at musical concerts on wedding ceremonies of his near and dear ones. When Turi launched his maiden album in 2006, he shot to unprecedented fame. In his album “Da Sail Saib Sara Yu Makhaam” (An Evening With Sail), he sang numbers of a popular progressive Pashto poet, Rahmat Shah Sail from Malakand. It was followed by five more albums containing Sail’s poems and ghazals, blending in romance with a tinge of Pashtun nationalism and traditional Pashto orchestra.
The debut album garnered huge business; its copies ran into a half million and earned Turi a large fan following in the Gulf States, Afghanistan, United Kingdom, United States and China because of his velvety voice and unique style of music arrangement.
However, a great tragedy struck when militants besieged a major portion of Kurram Agency from 2007 till 2011. Despite the setback, Turi continued to secretly come to Peshawar via Afghanistan to record his songs.
“I ran a regular campaign with the support of friends in my area and was able to release three evening audio albums during the ordeal. Despite the siege, the locals held up traditional tribal attan (dance) and businessmen dealing in CDs and DVDs did not close down their shops. Personally, I have not received any threats from militants. However, life was not that easy then,” Turi told The Express Tribune.
“None of my volumes has flopped. My Eid release is my sixth and final musical evening album, and both its audio and video CDs and DVDs are being released. Four thousand copies each for Kabul, the Gulf States, Karachi, Quetta and Europe have been already booked. The number for K-P districts also runs into thousands. All the credit goes to Rahmat Sail for his inspiring poetry which is drenched in peace, humanism, romance and love for pure Pashtun culture,” he said.
Turi will soon proceed to Australia for a musical concert. He has also performed in Germany, United Kingdom, Kabul and Dubai and is a recipient of numerous awards from literary and cultural organisations.
“My sole mission is to revive cultural activities in my war-ravaged tribal belt and beat militancy through performing arts. I appreciate the efforts of my other young colleagues, they should stand up to any barrier blocking the way of our glorious cultural expression,” Turi said.