No space for classical music at Radio Pakistan

No efforts are being made to promote classical singing is Pakistan.

Express July 21, 2010

At a time when many Pakistani classical singers are getting work in the Indian film industry, no efforts are being made to promote the art form in Pakistan.

Many senior and young classical singers interviewed by The Express Tribune believe that any initiative being taken to promote classical music was being undertaken by the private sector, such as the Rohail Hyatt produced Coke Studio. Classical singers are particularly disturbed by Radio Pakistan’s role which is not doing any recordings of classical or light classical singers.

A recent visit to the radio station revealed that no recordings of light classical music have been done for the last six months. The programmes of light classical music which were being broadcast were all old programs while many of the light classical singers are waiting for their recordings at the radio. An official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that music, especially classical music, didn’t seem on any priority list. He said that only news broadcasting was given preference, adding that the hours reserved for the music were filled up by airing old tunes.

A classical singer reminisced about the time that two to three programmes of light classical music were recorded at the radio every day. “People ask why Pakistani singers don’t sing in their own country or why they release albums in India. They don’t know what the state of the music industry is. A normal singer gets Rs500 for a show’s recording on radio,” he said.

The classical music program is also broadcast at an inconvenient hour. A 15-minute programme is broadcast five days a week at 7 am. Singers say that the time is very unsuitable for  a classical music programme as people don’t listen to the radio so early in the day.

When asked, officials said that they did not have enough funds to do new recordings, adding that it wasn’t right to say that classical music was being ignored. The in-charge for recordings said, “We run programmes on classical singing regularly”.

Though officials cited a lack of funds as the reason for not doing new recordings, a source revealed that Rs1.4 million from last year’s budget had lapsed as it was not used. “If the funds were not enough, then why are they surrendered? Surrendering funds shows that the officials do not want to work,” an official of the Services and General Administration Department said while quoting government rules.

Even though there are no new recordings, music producers at the radio stations have their jobs. “If there aren’t any recordings then what are the producers doing? They should be transferred to some other departments,” a singer said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2010.


Dr Omar Farooq Khan | 11 years ago | Reply It is indeed sad but true that classical music isn't getting the quality air-time it used to get (at Radio Pakistan) in the past. The article's crux only goes to highlight that just like any other state run organization, Radio Pakistan seems to have misplaced priorities along with an incompetent management at its helm. I agree that state support makes a lot of difference & Classical music does need a lot more patronage, but it is useless to expect support from the state run institutions. In order to save classical music the private sector has to step in further. More programs like Coke studios along with sponsorship for concerts and albums for classical musicians are needed. Events like concerts, festivals, fusion performances, joint film/music ventures (with foreign artists) and exposure on the electronic media is the hour of need. These efforts will highlight this genre of music to more youngsters and eventually create a target audience/demand for it. Another aspect to look into are music academies, where these musicians can teach the finer points of music to others, for it is a fact that, musicians who have had classical training/exposure are able to perform effortlessly in any genre of music. Artists like Shafqat Amanat Ali, Mekaal Hasan Band and Sajjad Ali, etc are few such examples. In short our heritage of classical music is an immense treasure trove which needs immediate steps for preservation. Waiting for official bodies to come to their senses will only further aggravate the present situation. Therefore the only logical action is to step-up and do our part to preserve what we hold dear and wish to pass on to our next generations. Dr. Omar Farooq Khan
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