“I belong to a Jat family where singing and playing music is not considered respectable. My family does not know that I have registered for the workshop. They will never approve of it. They think it will bring a bad name to the family,” a young man, in his early 20s, said. He has registered for Introduction to Classical Singing and Music Appreciation, the first summer workshop organised by the Punjab Lok Rahs, a not-for-profit theatre and arts organisation.
The workshop started on Monday and will continue for three months. Students will be taught how to play flute, tabla and harmonium.
Ustad Hanif, the coach, said that the workshop aims at training aspiring singers and instrument players the basics. “There is a misconception that learning classical music takes very long. I believe that like any other activity, students can start practicing as soon as they get some basic music education.”
He hoped to transfer the necessary skills to the student over the three months.
He said that approaches to teaching had changed overtime. “In old times, the ustads were illiterate people but still learned in the arts. Today’s educated people should feel more confident about mastering it,” he said. He said learning was primarily about brains not the “tools”, a melodic voice or quick, deft fingers.
He regretted that classical music was fading in Pakistan. In India, he said, people were doing well to save the art. He said that some ustads transferred the knowledge slowly and made quick learning difficult. “It took my ustad five years to teach me how to count the beats. I feel I can teach it to my students within three months given they put their effort and hard work,” he said.
Ten-year-old twin sisters, Mahnoor and Mahrukh, have been Hanif’s students since 2009. Their father, Tanveer, who also learned classical singing, said that after giving his daughters initial training in singing, he had sent them to Lok Rahs to learn flute playing.
Ali Zar, a Forman Christian College student, will also attend the workshop. He said he had also attended a dramatic workshop at Lok Rahs last year. “This year, I wanted to learn the harmonium to understand and appreciate classical music,” he said.
Muhammad Arshad Mahmood, one of the workshop organisers, said that the security situation in the country held people back from learning performing arts. The registration fees, he said, had been kept low to make it affordable to a greater audience.
Registration forms are available for Rs2,000 at Punjab Lok Rahs office in Garden Town. They can also be accessed online.
About the coach
Ustad Hanif is a gold medallist in flute playing and classical singing from the All Pakistan Music Conference. He has an audio engineering degree from the University of Manchester, and learned flute playing from Pundit Chander Das in India and Khadim Hussain Haider and Master AW Neelam in Pakistan. Currently, Ustaad Hanif has been teaching music at several schools, Care Foundation and the Lok Rahs.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2011.
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