Forty six-year-old Talat Hidayat is not your average, ‘just another’ musician. He comes across as an undercover messiah, who, despite being visually-impaired, spreads the light of God’s words through his religiously-inclined melodies. His music has a resonance of classical spirituality and unconditional faith; a trait that sets him apart from other musicians in mainstream Pakistani music industry. Hidayat, however, doesn’t desire limelight and enjoys promoting gospel music in obscurity; away from the cacophony of mainstream music.
“Music is all about bringing back balance in one’s life. Music lovers and musicians who are true to their music can never be tempted by worldly discriminations because good music in itself is a source of solace,” says Hidayat, who belongs to the Catholic sect.
Capitalising on your skill-set
He lost his eyesight at the age of three when he contracted typhoid. The Sialkot-born musician then struggled through several special education schools and eventually received a university degree. Despite his degree, his passion remained fixated on music studies which he learned from some leading ustads across Punjab.
Hidayat educated himself in ghazal and classical music and learned to play the harmonium, tabla, keyboard, flute, violin, sitar, banjo, guitar and several other instruments. Learning and practicing classical music was easier for him than professional education because melody is dependent on hearing. His focus has been on classical music and ghazal, but the deprecating state of classical music has started to upset him. “I think classical music died in 1990,” says Hidayat. “I don’t listen much to the mainstream music but I can say that classical music has a soothing effect on one’s mind and if this genre of music is introduced to youngsters I think people will be more tolerant.”
In a state of trance
His work is predominantly spiritual that hopes to bring people together rather than create differences. “If a child is born with some abnormality, it should not be shunned because sometimes the most imperfect of creatures can create extraordinary things,” says Hidayat, who has recorded two spiritual gospel albums. Over the years his career has seen him play alongside Shabnam Majeed, Ghulam Ali, Ghulam Abbas and Pervaiz Mehdi to name a few. Hidayat says that the genre of gospel and local Christian music scene has seen contributions from leading artists such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Having interacted with Khan, the musician asserts that the late classical singer, like him, lived and performed in a state of trance and did not care about the world around him. He said that Khan was a strong advocate of different levels of spirituality that humanity experiences through music and hymns. “The spirituality we are talking about gets away from religion, it’s more about getting lost into the music. It happens all by itself and it lets your imagination prevail.”
Message in a melody
Hidayat teaches music in the morning at the National Special Education Centre and later in the day teaches people from different backgrounds at his own music centre. He explains that most children are not pursuing music professionally, and due to the changes in Pakistani culture, music is considered a hobby now and that too is condemned by many conservative groups.
Which is why for his next venture, Hidayat hopes to collaborate with people and promote secular rather than religious music. “The idea is to make music that will serve as a call for unity. There are people that create these walls through religious overtones and I don’t want my music to do that,” Hidayat concludes.
EDITED BY TANEEYA HASAN
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2012.
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