Despite having immense musical talent, our country often fails to appreciate and recognise artists for their contribution. This is also one of the main reasons why most of the younger lot has crossed over to Bollywood and the industry as a whole has deteriorated significantly.
Veteran Pashto folk and ghazal singer Ustad Ahmad Gul has continued to perform despite his age and has brought forward the legacy of legendary Pashto musicians such as Ahmed Khan. A while back, the previous directorate of culture had offered him a certain amount of money as an honourable gesture for his work. However, it seems that the award has been lost somewhere in time and the cultural department has failed to acknowledge his impeccable talent. “I have visited the cultural department several times but yet again another date has been given,” says Gul.
Gul has been performing Pashto music for over five decades and is considered a master of Pashto ghazal, tappa and charbeta. “We don’t run after money. What is more important for us is the audience’s appreciation. So now, I only perform wherever there is love and affection,” he says. “One reason for such apathy could possibly be that there is not really an environment left for welcoming our music in KP,” he stresses.
Born in Sorizai village of Peshawar, Gul started his music career at the age of 13. In order to support his family, he joined his uncle, who used to perform in Peshawar Sadder area. Gul seems to have a similar vibe as the renowned Pashto singer Ahmad Khan, probably because Khan was his music guru. “Khan was my teacher. I have spent more than 12 years with him and learned music under his guidance. I can feel his voice within me,” Gul reveals.
Gul appreciates the modern change that young artists have brought in Pashto music but feels that it is quickly losing its taste. “Our new artists try to adopt Indian or Western music because of which they end up distorting the music. Music is meant to sooth one’s mind but nowadays it sounds more like noise, which eventually makes you tired,” he says, adding that a lot of the musicians are actually making a mockery out of music and only a few have remained true to the real art.
Over the years, Gul has received many prestigious awards. “Recognition in the form of awards feels good. I feel honoured and proud. This is recognition of my hard work,” he says. However, he feels that folk music is now losing its charm and everything has become commercialised. “Just as Pashto folk music is losing its old charm among the Pakhtuns, the folk singers have also lost their prestigious position. I still have some admirers in certain parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Waziristan but the love and appreciate I used to get earlier does not exist anymore,” he says.
It is unfortunate that such brilliant artists, who have been sharing their love and passion for the regions traditional culture and music, are struggling to make ends meet. It is high time that the government supports them and appreciates their efforts.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2013.