KARACHI: There are a number of talented musicians in Karachi who have been practicing the art of classical music for a number of years. Saffia Beyg is one of them.
As a student of Ustad Hamid Hussain of Rampur gharana, Beyg has been involved in classical music for the past 15 years, and spent three years learning about classical music.
For the last 11 years, Beyg has been running a non-profit organisation by the name of Sampurna. Sampurna aims at preserving and promoting classical music in Pakistan, and has held over 20 programmes which have showcased the talent of established artists as well as newcomers.
Beyg teaches classical music and among her distinguished students are Tina Sani, “who corrected her sur” under Beyg’s guidance and Wajih, the lead vocalist of the band Raeth. Currently, Beyg is teaching 16-year-old Immad the basics of the form. Immad is a quick learner and “an emotional person who is eager to learn, and that is why I am keen to develop his skills,” says Beyg.
However, there are few institutes that focus solely on the art form.
“There is no particular institute that teaches classical music, there are only individuals like Sajid Hussain who teaches sitar, and then there are others who teach tabla, but no institute is involved in it,” says Sheema Kirmani.
Beyg has tried to change this, “I tried to save the cultural heritage of this country, which for me is classical music. A few years ago I was hired by the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) faculty and I forwarded a syllabus to them, but something made them turn down my syllabus. I walked away from the academy as the administration was not willing to follow the direction that I was planning to give students,” said Beyg.
She also taught at the Aga Khan University, where music is an elective subject for students. However, Beyg was once again disappointed as very few students showed interest in studying music, “Finally, I thought there was a vision but I could not find it anywhere,” said Beyg.
Currently, Napa has six students who are learning classical music under the tutelage of ghazal singer Salamat Ali.
Beyg says that this is a problem. “How can a ghazal singer teach classical music?”
The students learning classical music are taught how to play the tabla as well as the guitar.
Salamat Ali says, “We are adapting (classical music) to contemporary times.” The two differ as Ali says, “Classical music that is tuneful is actually bhajans (devotional Indian songs).” But Beyg asserts, “Classical music is not bhajans, it is the sufi qual (sayings), and from that comes qawwali.” Citing the influence of Amir Khusro, Beyg says, “That is the brief history of classical music, having roots in the sub-continent. This is music through the love of God.”
According to Ali, “Raag is a part of our tradition, it is from our own roots, but in our society there is no awareness of it. We ourselves don’t have the patience to accept it.”
Beyg hopes that she will be able to make a larger impact when she begins teaching young children at a school in Karachi this August.
Beyg has a specific method of teaching where she combines practical exercises and theory. She says that many contemporary musicians feel that musical theory is unnecessary but she believes that it is a must.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2010.
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