Musical and cultural activities in the Swat Valley are reviving gradually as an increasing number of young artists are emerging in the field of dance and music.
Two year back, when the valley was under the rule of Taliban, female singers were either killed or severely punished, while cultural activities in Swat were brought to a complete standstill. However, with the return of peace in Swat, social and cultural activities have started to regain momentum, with several musical and dance programmes taking place in the valley.
Azra Iqbal, 16, is one such example of an upcoming Pashto singer who has received appreciation from music lovers in the Pashto-speaking community.
“I entered the field of music based on my own choice. I really enjoy the music of Nazia Iqbal (a renowned Pashto singer). Being a true follower of Pashto poetry, I am enthralled by local ghazals, which have the ability to touch one’s inner feelings,” Azra told The Express Tribune.
“The dark period when musicians and performing artists were persecuted is gone. Peace in Swat has brought many changes. Several young artists are being encouraged to come forward and display their talent and the future of Swat looks bright and colourful,” she added.
She explained that she was a staunch supporter of folk music, and she spends four hours at a music rehearsal regularly, besides learning music from her father.
“I have performed at several live shows and television programmes and I really enjoy singing live at these concerts. I don’t believe in lip-synching, as it is not a challenging task for me,” she remarked.
Azra describes music as an art which imparts love and spreads peace and humanity. According to her, music can only be learnt with complete dedication and commitment. “Respect for teachers and parents are a must for this profession. One has to attend regular rehearsals and practice constantly to become a professional singer,” she said.
However, Azra feels that the trend of classical music is decreasing with the passage of time. “Classical music is the soul of music, but unfortunately the upcoming artists do not appreciate it. Most of the artists like to gain popularity, while they don’t sing out of love and passion,” she said.
Although she only has a 6th grade education, she speaks fluent Urdu and enjoys Urdu music. On foreign influences, “Lata Mangeshkar is my favourite singer from across the border,” she explained.
The majority of artists from Swat leave their hometown once they start getting recognition. However, Azra has no intention of leaving her hometown.
“Swat is a paradise and I will continue with my profession in my hometown,” said Azra, adding that she would express her feelings for her country in the form of national songs.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2011.