Singers switching over to other professions
PESHAWAR, Sept 9: Popular Pashto folk singers are switching over to other professions and businesses in the face of mounting hostility to music and growing trend of ‘Talibanisation’ in the Frontier province.
The hostile environment in the province has forced many singers to say goodbye to music and try their luck in other businesses.
“I have been singing for 25 years, but I have quit it and now I am running a food stall. It was the hostile environment that forced me to do so,” said Gulzar Alam, who was famous for his revolutionary songs and poems.
Then clean-shaved, Gulzar who had once sung a song “Kala mey perzo shey pe bamoono Pekhawara” (I could never imagine Peshawar would be ever bombed), has now grown a beard and is running a property dealing business, besides running a chapli kabab shop.
First, an unwritten ban was imposed on holding concerts by the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal government when it came to power five years ago and now growing attacks on music bands and the shops selling CDs and cassettes had created a sense of insecurity among singers, Gulzaar said.
“Everyone knows that situation in the NWFP is not favourable for music after the MMA came to power,” Gulzaar said, who once scuffled with policemen at a private concert when they raided the place. In another incident, he was thrown out of Dabgari gardens — an area in Peshawar where musicians had their ‘Balakhanas’ and produced music.
Another singer who rose to fame for singing ‘tapay’, requesting not to be named for personal security, said that some two months ago he had received several threatening calls from militants asking him to stop singing and start reciting ‘Naat’ and preaching Islam.
“The callers told me that singing was a sin and I should stop singing and recite Naat and preach Islam. They told me that it was their mission to stop vices and promote virtue in the society,” the singer said.
But, threats would not distract this young singer from singing. He is planning to start a business and keep his singing continuing.
“Singers feel unsafe and no one can hold a concert in the sole music hall of the province — Nishtar Hall — which was closed after the MMA came to power,” said Gulzar. “The time will pass, but it will leave great damage to our culture and music.”
Literary and cultural critics are of the view that music is part of the Pukhtun culture and it presents the ‘soft and romantic side’ of Pukhtun personality. But, the hostile attitude towards music because of the growing militancy will harm the entire culture, they add.
“If Rabaab, Sitar and Mangay vanish from the Pukhtun society, only weapons and bloodshed will stay back,” said one critic referring to Pukhtuns’ love for these musical instruments and keeping weapons for protection as part of their culture.
If the situation persists, it would take two generations to revive the culture and music, he said.Khayal Mohammad, famous Pashto ghazal singer, expressed concern over the hostility towards musicians and singers, but hoped that as long as the music-lovers were there, music would stay alive no matter how hostile elements might get.
“Music is harmless and even those (militants) who oppose it, like it, but they don’t want to show,” Khayal observed.
Gulzaar said if the government encouraged singers, they could hold gatherings for entertainment-starved public and sing poetry of Sufi poet Rehman Baba and Khushal Khan Khattak.