Is Pashto music losing its charm?

Singers in the industry highlight differences between older and newer times.

Hidayat Khan August 22, 2012


The Pashto music industry seems to  be in troubled waters as genuine singers who took an oath to music and believed it was an art, have now lost the spotlight. The Express Tribune spoke to Pashto artists to gain some insight on the present anticipated state of the industry only to discover that the passion and level of dedication to music has largely diminished.

Pashto music has largely been inspired by folk music — there was always a message in the lyrics, depicting real life stories which the public could relate to. The queen of Pashto music Mashooq Sultan and many others including Mahjabeen Qazalbash, Hidayatullah, Gulraiz Tabassum and Gulzar Alam greatly banked on this. These artists still perform, but unfortunately, with changing trends in the Pashto music scene where the quality of lyrical content is evidently declining, they are left with a small audience.

Earlier on, writers like Hamza Shinwari, Ghani Khan Baba and Saadullah Jan Burq wrote songs with deeply inspiring lyrics. Now, however, an average lyricist has forgotten the importance of meaningful and ethical lyrics and the fact that they have a responsibility towards society. Songs like “Za Bottle the Black Label Ym” and “Khudkusha Dhamka” are being written today, where the former track suggests “I am like a bottle of wine,” not exactly portraying a wholesome or meaningful image of society.

Legendary Pashto ghazal singer Hidayatullah expresses his opinion: “Singers prefer songs which have good poetry, today’s music might be popular but it’s not meaningful.” He also feels the overall quality of poetry has declined. “Common people don’t understand what good poetry is — they just want upbeat music and this is exactly what today’s musicians are catering to,” he regretfully adds.While older Pashto artists put their heart and soul in composing songs, newer artists don’t seem to have the time. “We just come to the studio, where the song is handed to us and we record it,” says Iram Khan, a young Pashto artist. “In earlier times, artists would rehearse for a week, before recording a song,” she adds. Current singers on the other hand don’t put in the same effort, with computer softwares available to edit their work through which their music is recorded.

“Today, Pashto music has adopted modern trends, which is a good sign but emphasis should still be on our own culture,” says Hidayatullah. “Old music was simple with a few instruments like rabab, sitar and the harmonium, now music has become very complicated with numerous instruments,” he adds.

Along with this, Hidayatullah also disappointedly states, “Singers today are unaware of basic surs. Majority of these singers are not professionals – they lack experience and have adopted singing as a part-time job, whereas music requires full dedication and spiritual devotion.”

On the other hand, another young artist, Raheem Khan, feels the music scene has not changed much. “The same instruments are still used,” states Khan who is not too pleased about it and would like to add a more hip hop feel to the music.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2012.

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