After a hiatus of four years, Pashto singer Haroon Bacha is finally back on the Pashto music scene with his new album titled Darman.
Forty-year-old Bacha, who hails from the district of Swabi, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, was driven away by extremist militants who believed that singing was against the teachings of Islam. Bacha, however, didn’t abandon his creative roots and instead moved to the US where he started hosting a cultural affair programme on Radio Mashaal, a Pashto service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Additionally, he kept his passion for music burning by performing for the Pashto community in the US at small gatherings. “We arrange parties in America and friends from various states come to attend them,” Bacha tells The Express Tribune. He adds, “Sadly, people who know how to play Pashto tunes are scattered in different states, so attendance is not as high as it used to be in K-P.”
Even though Bacha is happy with the small steps he is taking to promote Pashto music in America via his radio programmes, he admits that he would have done much more if he were in K-P.
The singer says that he misses home and he yearns for cultural shows back home — which have resumed after being halted for a few years by infuriated conservative groups who had banned them. “I was deeply affected when I couldn’t attend a cultural event in my country, but it makes me happy to talk about those events on my programme,” says Bacha.
He blames the militancy in the northern region on a group that he believes conspired to tarnish the image of Pashtuns and Pashto culture and music. “They were trying to make us look like beasts to the world. No one was ready to believe that we actually wanted peace and prosperity in our country.”
Bacha, who is known for revamping Pashto tappay (a genre of Pashto poetry), longs to go home and make music without fearing of a backlash. From the darker days when militants torched CD and cassette shops and forced the shop owners into other trades, Bacha says the situation has improved. “I’m happy that the situation is better now.”
It’s comeback time
Even though Bacha kick-started his career with his album Da Rangoono Makhaam, it was his second album, Ghunchakoona — featuring his revolutionary tappay — which raised him to the status of an icon of the Pashto music industry. His discography includes albums like Walwalay, Tamashay, Nazar Maat, and Yar Sha Kana, the last album he released after which he fled to America.
Bacha’s most recent venture, Darman, was conceptualised in the US and recorded in Peshawar in one week’s time. “I can’t record my albums in America because there aren’t many musicians here who can make Pashto tunes. The only two options I had were to either send my vocals to Peshawar or go myself to record them.”
When inquired about the nature of his album that was released in April this year, the singer adds, “The album features songs and folk tappay that depict the state of my country. The lyrics of the songs also convey messages of love, peace and suggest benign solutions to our ongoing problems.”
The album includes lyrics penned by Ajmal Khattak, Rahmat Shah Sayel, Ali Akbar Sial, Amjad Shahzad and Israr Atal.
A song from Bacha’s album Darman
“Ay Zama Da Meeny Baada”
Renowned Pashto poet Ajmal Khattak
“Ay zama da meeany baada
Da larghon Pukhtun la yaada
Da Ghairat la dak Hewada
Rasha ma da zan sara wakhla”
O! The breeze of my love
From the memories of ancient Pakthuns
From the land of honor
Come and take me with you
Published In The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2012.