Passing through the labyrinth of alleys of the historic town of Peshawar, one is mesmerized by the rhythm of the traditional tabla (hand drums) and the air of the rabab (guitar) coming out of shops belonging to manufacturers with a centuries-old heritage in the region. classical musical instrument making
PESHAWAR, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – January 9, 2020): Walking through the labyrinth of alleys of the historic city of Peshawar, one is mesmerized by the rhythm of the traditional tabla (hand drums) and the tune of the rabab (guitar) coming out of stores owned by manufacturers with a centuries-old heritage in making classical musical instruments.
A craftsman busy beating dry animal skins to adjust the rhythm of hand drums or twisted strings to tune rabab (guitar) tunes takes the passer-by into a nostalgic time, swaying to classical music tunes.
Sitting in shops located in Mohallah Shah Burhan in the interior of the city, a few traders display handmade musical instruments for sale, including hand drums, rababs and tambourines.
These traders who also share the same lineage and associated with the art of making and repairing musical instruments of the last century.
It is worth inserting here that the historical name of Peshawar is “Pesha War” (Skillful Person), which means that the city has been recognized in history as “City of Craftsmen” due to the many livelihoods. provided by the generosity of its inhabitants towards the inhabitants of the Region.
“Our grandfather, Rahim Buksh, migrated from the district of Gujrawala in Punjab to Peshawar and started this art as a means of subsistence. The profession is continued by our father, Rahim Murtaza and we, the third generation, have also inherited it successively ”, informs Ahmad Ali. a craftsman.
“The talent of preparing classical musical instruments in Peshawar is in danger of disappearing because we are the only skillful people associated with it and pursue it until we can,” warns Ahmad Ali in a conversation with APP.
While developing his concern, Ahmad Ali told APP that unlike his elders and themselves, art is not being adopted by their children as a profession due to the deep recession in business.
In fact, we decided to stop this vocation by our children due to the drop in income due to the modernity of the choice of melodies, diverting people’s attention from classical music to the latest DJ (Disc Jockey) style.
“Handicrafts will no longer be available in the future and classical music lovers in Peshawar will face a stalemate due to difficulties in finding perfect instrument makers in addition to mechanics to repair gadgets already in use,” Ahmad Ali warned.
He also claimed that in all of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and neighboring Afghanistan, no other craftsman except those who work in Peshawar are involved in this art and make perfect instruments that meet professional demands. .
Rahim Mujtaba, another craftsman from the same locality, shares the concern expressed by Ahmad Ali who is also his younger brother.
Rahim told APP that he has been associated with the art of making and repairing musical instruments for 40 to 45 years, but the economic recession they have faced for the past 12 to 15 years is unprecedented. which makes it difficult for them to do both. of their ends meet.
This skill is very difficult because adjusting the beats of the hand drums by tightening the string requires a lot of strength and dexterity, explained Rahim.
In addition, he continued, to improve the quality of the beat, they have to grind the iron by hand to turn it into powder to stick on the animals’ dry skin by mixing it with a chemical.
“The process of crushing iron in a metal mortar and pestle is a very heavy exercise that not only takes time, but also requires a lot of physical strength,” said Rahim.
A pair of hand drums takes about 20 to 25 days to prepare while a rabab with perfect tunes takes 10 to 12 days.
About the price of a pair of hand drums, he said, it is around Rs. 16,000 to Rs. 25,000. While the price of a handmade wooden rabab is of about Rs. 7,000 to 10,000.
Rahim Mujtaba said that their main source of income is the repair of used instruments, which also shows a reduction due to the change in mood of music lovers.
“I have come from Charsadda district to have my hand drums repaired because there is no shop and no one in our area to do this work,” said Zarshad, a hand drummer.
Zarshad said that people associated with classical music are going through a very difficult time due to reduced demand from people.
Gone are the days when people reserved classical singers to celebrate their happy occasions, Zarshad laments.
Now we have chances of performance once or twice a month and the earnings we get are much less to cover our household expenses.
“This is a matter of concern as music lovers face many problems adjusting or tuning their musical instruments and have to send them to Lahore and other areas,” said Arbab Fazal Rauf, a singer who loves classical songs in Pashto and Urdu. languages.
“Classical music enthusiasts exist in Peshawar and KP, but the problem is the lack of qualified people who can perfectly repair the equipment,” Rauf told APP.
Speaking to APP, Fazle Rauf, who is a banker by profession, explained that rabab technicians are available in Peshawar and KP, but the problem is with the hand drums which only have a few people and no professional in any. the region.
Rauf urged the government to pay attention and protect this art from extinction, as hundreds of people are associated with the profession of hand drumming on happy occasions and even at literary gatherings.
The holding of music broadcasts by television channels, especially regional ones, has provided many opportunities for music artists and their number has increased, but if there is no professional for tuning musical instruments , people will face many problems, continued Fazle Rauf.
“The Culture Department is aware of the issues faced by music lovers and artisans associated with making and repairing instruments,” said Raiz Ahmad, deputy director of the KP Culture Department.
Speaking to APP, Riaz said that KP’s Ministry of Culture has launched the “Supporting Living Human Treasure” project with the aim of expanding financial support to the artist community.
As part of the project, an allowance of Rs. 30,000 was paid to around 500 people, including singers, musicians and tabla (hand drum) players. The project ended about six months earlier after completing two years of its stipulated period.
He said other projects are also underway that would target hand drum makers as well. “We realize that the wave of activism that has lasted a decade has had a very negative impact on the income of music performers and the Culture department is trying to help and support them through different projects,” concluded Riaz.