The AfPak connection

Published: June 26, 2010
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Pashto singers are stars in their own province … and in Afghanistan

Pashto singers are stars in their own province … and in Afghanistan

Despite the large Pashto-speaking population in Pakistan, the most promising market for Pashto singers is in Afghanistan, according to musicians Hamayoon Khan and Irfan Khan.

Hamayoon Khan, who has been working formally as a musician since 2004, says modern Pashto music is a “mix of the cultural music but the pace has changed. It was always the tabla, rubab and harmonium, and now it has digital instruments and drums. The quality of music and the software has improved”.

Both singers credit musician Ivan Shafiq for bringing about a change in music, for infusing pop into Pashto music, and Hamayoon credits him as a guru. The two have consistently released albums and videos (“We don’t have enough of a market nationally to make 35mm videos,” Irfan says) but are faced with the same problems musicians in Pakistan have.

The security situation has affected the number of concerts being organised, piracy is rampant, and record labels do not care about artists they deem as ‘regional singers’.

Hamayoon told The Express Tribune, “We spend a lot of money on an album – recording, launching and promoting it. We only get the expenses we have incurred as a return, nothing else.”

“Now we do not have concerts, there are always threats, creativity is affected … but there is always life.”

“The situation is always in the back of my mind, because any negative thing brushes away the good. But musicians like me, Zeeshan Parwez … we’re going to go national, international … there is a lot of potential. We want to portray this place in the right way.”

Border crossing

Musicians have been given red carpet-treatment in Afghanistan (a few of them were invited as state guests by Afghan President Hamid Karzai a few years ago) and hear reports from distributors of high CD sales and requests for concerts in the country.

Hamayoon Khan, who composes and writes most of his music, is receptive to the demands of his entire target market, whether it’s in Afghanistan or Pakistan “When people started listening to us in Afghanistan, I recorded a Farsi song for my album which was very popular there. An Afghan FM channel gave me the ‘singer of the ye ar’ award.”

Irfan Khan tells The Express Tribune that he gets phone calls from Afghanistan and looks at the response on Afghan websites by locals and Afghans settled abroad.

The singer, who was approached by Hadiqa Kiani to sing his hit “Jannan”, uses their collaboration to highlight how big of a market Pashto music has. “That song is Hadiqa Kiani’s biggest hit to date. It has been listened to online millions of times.”

He says he feels happy when other singers dabble in Pashto music, but also points out how Coke Studio does not feature most languages. “They have a Farsi song,” he says. “How many people understand Farsi in this country? Maybe two to three per cent.”

Irfan Khan has also had bitter experiences with record labels. “The Musik said outright that they wouldn’t release my album,” he told The Express Tribune. “On the other hand, Fire Records said they would only release one Pashto song, and that’s it.”

“We need to stop looking at Pashto as a regional language, but as the national language of Afghanistan,” he says.

“I often think that we are more recognised in Afghanistan than we are here. President Zardari doesn’t know who we are. But President Hamid Karzai does.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Jun 26, 2010 - 11:02PM

    the pakhtunwali code our pakhtun brothers live by is primitive,it emphasises vengeance not forgiveness,bloodshed & brakcets women as possessions along with property.As long as misogyny,vendetta are defended by declaring them as culture our pakhtun brothers sadly will remain as the bloodspilling,women oppressing ppl that unfortunately they currently are.Hopefully,in future with more education being acceccible in kp,the ppl will also progress and move beyond the rituals & values that were prevelant in the dark ages.Here is hoping for a peaceful & progressive khyberpakhtunkhwa. Recommend

  • Erfan Afghan
    Jun 27, 2010 - 10:15PM

    Pashto is a national language (Along with Farsi) in Afghanistan that’s why their popularity level is higher in Afghanistan. They would never get that kind of response in Pakistan for various reasons.Recommend

  • Jawad Ali
    Jun 28, 2010 - 12:20AM

    Mr Aslam first go through the history of Pukhtoons before passing such comments. “WOMEN OPPRESSING,” look at the number of women killings in the name of honour in Punjab, Karachi and Interior Sindh and then compare it with Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa. Compare the number of female teachers in Peshawar university with Punjab and Karachi university. We have never be fanatics. Well we are not blood spilling, corect your record…. the recent killings in Karachi Pukhtoons got killed…in TRIBAL areas pukhtoons are getting killed…its our genocide if someone understands. Thanks to express tribune which took the brave step of presenting the other face of Peshawar and Pukhtoons to the world. They are telling about our real culture to the world..music gandhara civilization and rehman baba…We have a tradition when even our enemy knocks at our door we welcome him…Thank to Zia and company…we are terrorists today….Well what do you know about our traditions? Recommend

  • Aroob
    Jun 29, 2010 - 4:35AM

    Silly speech from Mr. Aslam but a great piece from the Express Tribune.Recommend

  • saeedlatif
    Jun 29, 2010 - 11:54PM

    yah its tru there a lot,s of problams but there is very great pashtoon singers like irfan khan,raheem shah,zeek afridi…Recommend

  • Babar, Akbar
    Jun 30, 2010 - 6:50PM

    Yes, it’s really appreciative work that in this digital age the brilliant workers brought the rock,rock and classic rock music to pashto… I really lauded it and have no words to praise the music players and singers of the today screen , like Fay khan, Irfan khan and many more…Recommend

  • Batoor Khan
    Jul 1, 2010 - 8:38AM

    Its great to know that people are now realizing the importance of language and so the Pashtu. Its such a poetic beautiful language which has sweetness and deepness. For Pashtuns its important that they start taking care of their language, foreigner will not come and work for Pashtu Language. Its our national which unites our Pashtuns, our Afghans. Pashtu is spoken at a large in Pakistan but it is really unfortunate that we are not paying any attention to us. It deserve to be language of school, college, court etc. All over the world, people have worked for their language and developed. Some people argue suffering from inferiority complex that we can only developed by speaking other languages. One sentence for them, Once language is gone, you are gone.

    and Its reality is that we Pashtuns in Pakistan are alive(as Pashtun nation) due to Pashtuns working for the language in Afghanistan. Let start working together for our beautiful language.Recommend

  • SUHAAN
    Jul 1, 2010 - 11:41PM

    In Pakistan Not Only Pakhtoo But Other languages music are also Not Much in Demand…After that Punjapi…Pukhtoo muzik Is In Good demand In Pakistan…According to our population & Divisions Our Tribal Muzik are not in high demand but they are having some demand 7 with the passage of time It will increase We have Great singers Like Irfan Khan,Rahim Shah,Ulusyar Khan & many more..soon In Pakistan Pakhtoo muzik will also be at pinnacleRecommend

  • Zia Khattak
    Jul 2, 2010 - 8:00PM

    totally agree with both Irfan and Hamayun.. first of all we need to start with in only then we can go further, I believe we need to show unity….Recommend

  • sheraz
    Aug 16, 2010 - 2:41PM

    I am a Punjabi Pakistani, learning Pashto.
    I love Humayun Khan, Irfan Khan, Shaz Khan better than Rahim Shah.
    Rahim I love yah too, but these guys gotta get my support.
    I wanna see LaLA Humayun in concert.Recommend

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