A balancing act: Of metre and rhyme

Turkistan Afridi writes about war, love


Hidayat Khan August 19, 2016
Turkistan Afridi writes about war, love. STOCK PHOTO

PESHAWAR: The 53-year-old poet and lyricist Turkistan Afridi weaves words in a simple poetic style. He has been writing since he was very young, but his work gained popularity after famous singers started using his words to add soul to their music. His poetry covers themes of unrequited love, nature and conditions of his area.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Afridi says songs are the reflection of society. “It will be unforgivable if you use your powerful medium and fail to talk about the world you live in.” Talking about his achievements, he says Late Ghazala Javed performed his song Lag Rash Kna while many other leading Pashto singers have given voice to his words. Praising his work, singer Nazia Iqbal says, “He writes verses that are beautiful, rhymed and make sense. He is an asset for Pashto music as there are very few popular Pashto songwriters.

The lyricist says some of his contemporaries have been writing substandard poetry for Pashto singers – a practice that should be discouraged by the music industry. In all Pukhtun areas, there is no censor board or any other regulations to stop them from maligning the culture, yet Afridi says, “We have a social code and if anyone is working against it, they should be stopped. It is our social responsibility.”



People like quality, substandard lyric songs have a short lifespan. Often, good singers go to waste singing them because in the end neither those songs nor those singers leave any mark on the industry.

Turkistan serves as a senior political moharrar of Khyber Agency political administration. He says people outside the region expect us to only write about war, militancy, poverty or instability. “These topics give literature weight but we do have other things we would like to talk about.” He added people do not want to listen about suffering or grief and like tales of romance. Khyber Agency has produced some extraordinary poets which include Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari, Khatir Afridi, Muntazir Shinwari, Murad Shinwari, Khyber Afridi, Khusro Afridi, Nazir Baba. Hundreds of poets have passed in this area which still maintains rich tradition of poetry.

“The poet has to reflect the times he writes in,” Turkistan says. “The basic prerequisite of literature is freedom and the most important kind of freedom is mental which is unfortunately not available to us in this region.” He added, “We require this to help our literature flourish and bring it to people outside our countries.”

People of Khyber Agency still maintain the tradition of the Pashto jirgas and tolnas. They regularly hold sessions and play a role in bringing poets together to present their most recent work. Recently Hamza Baba Adabi Tolana was set up and a seminar and music activities have been planned by them.

However, one thing that discourages poets is the fact they have no platforms to publish their poetry. “I have material of more than three books, but I do not have resources to publish them,” Afridi says. “Neither the government nor any private organisation has come forward to help poets of the region or publish their work,” he concludes.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2016.

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