Fading traditions: When was the last time a drummer woke you up?

Published: July 15, 2013
Email
“The tradition of drummers in cities has nearly vanished. It is barely surviving in small villages or neighbourhoods where people sleep on terraces and can easily hear a shout from the street,” says a drum beater. PHOTO: Express/File

“The tradition of drummers in cities has nearly vanished. It is barely surviving in small villages or neighbourhoods where people sleep on terraces and can easily hear a shout from the street,” says a drum beater. PHOTO: Express/File

FAISALABAD: “All our lives the men of my family have been waking up the faithful for the Ramazan fast. Now I am the only one left. Everybody else has given up,” says Shaukat Ali, a drum beater, from a village near Faisalabad.

Ali is one of a very small number of men who voluntarily go around at sehar waking people up with the resounding vibration of their drums.

The tradition is centuries old. It goes back to times when there were no loudspeakers and no alarm clocks for people to rely on. Shortly before Fajr prayers, the drummers, also known as dholchis, walk about in the streets beating the drums and shouting and calling the people to wake up and prepare for a fast.

They are respected as pious people doing a job to receive God’s blessing. The respect also beings money, gifts and food at Eid.

But with advancements in technology, many of the traditional drummers believe they are not wanted any longer.

For Ali that doesn’t make a difference. He works at a power loom factory, but says his “religious commitment” keeps him returning to the streets every Ramazan.

He says his father, uncles and brothers are no longer as consistent as him.

There used to be three drummers in his village, he said. His wife and mother used to collect alms as he beat the drum along with his brother.

“Now people don’t treat the drummers as good people the way they did earlier. We keep shouting to wake them up, but receive no acknowledgement,” he adds.

He says sometimes some people shout back at him, telling him to leave. Some, he said, take him as a nuisance.

But, there are still people who respect him and others like him for their consistency.

“Some offer me iftar and tell me to remember to visit them on Eid day to collect my Eidi.”

Ali says he has grown up seeing his father and uncles collect Eidi and gifts of clothes and food. He says he regrets his children will not see it.

“The tradition of drummers in cities has nearly vanished. It is barely surviving in small villages or neighbourhoods where people sleep on terraces and can easily hear a shout from the street,” he says.

Muhammad Qasim, one of his former colleagues, says dholchis once adorned market squares in cities and villages, where shortly before sunrise and sunset people would gather to hear them recite the Holy Quran, naats and hamds.

He says the tradition has come to an end as people now wait instead for sirens, and broadcast azan and use electronics for alarms.

“How can anybody, even if he is shouting at the top of their voice, be heard with the sirens and hooters around?” he asks.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2013.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (10)

  • Saad Durrani
    Jul 15, 2013 - 12:25AM

    On July 14, 2013

    Recommend

  • BILAL
    Jul 15, 2013 - 1:13PM

    In fact everyday in month of Ramadan :)

    Recommend

  • Robin
    Jul 15, 2013 - 3:05PM

    Dhol is a sanskrit word, and to use it to wake up people this is a Hindu tradition (called suprabhatam, another sanskrit word) which goes into time immorial. I wonder how villagers in Pakistan allow something which has come from some other culture without being tagged as unislamic?

    Recommend

  • Zaara
    Jul 15, 2013 - 4:03PM

    I don’t remember if I had ever been woken up at sehri by drummers. I wish the tradition continued. I would love to be woken up by them. Alarms and sirens don’t work for me at that time. Lol.
    What a beautiful tradition.

    Recommend

  • UnIslamic
    Jul 15, 2013 - 4:39PM

    It is UnIslamic to beat these drums..Please stop using it..

    Recommend

  • Islamic Practice
    Jul 15, 2013 - 4:39PM

    Actually, drummers and musicians waking people for starting fast and fajr is an Islamic tradition which has always been a part of Persian and Turkish Islamic culture. Pakistan also comes from this great tradition as well.

    Recommend

  • Vishal Kaul
    Jul 15, 2013 - 4:40PM

    Don’t comment like this Muslim mullah may give fatva against dhol after knowing that its Hindu musical instrument and its name originated from infidels language Sanskrit. @Robin:

    Recommend

  • waqas
    Jul 15, 2013 - 4:56PM

    this morning

    Recommend

  • Jul 16, 2013 - 11:57PM

    Oh… yaa… Dhols.. on EID..what a musical sound.. it’s been long time we heard..

    Recommend

  • Sep 3, 2013 - 8:10AM

    It’s very difficult to see Dhol .. love the old tradition, but things have changed.. People have moved to some other medium and this is little bit disheartening..

    Recommend

More in Pakistan