Tunes to save a dying art

Lok Virsa publishes the fifth book on the ‘dying’ genre of classical music.


Express October 15, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Lok Virsa has published the fifth book on the ‘dying’ genre of classical music.

The book Raag Saroop by noted musicologist and singer Ustad Mahfooz Khokar was launched at the Media Studios of Lok Virsa on Thursday.

Speaking on the occasion as chief guest, Federal Minister for Culture Pir Aftab Hussain Shah Jilani said the government was taking measures to promote art and culture, including folk and classical music.

He praised the efforts of Lok Virsa (National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage) for documenting, preserving and promoting indigenous folk culture and the musical heritage of Pakistan.

“Lok Virsa deserves commendation for documenting folk and classical music in the form of books and audio-visual material for posterity and use by future generations,” the minister commented.

“It is not the first effort by Lok Virsa towards the documentation of music; they have created a full-fledged display on musical heritage of Pakistan at the Heritage Museum with special emphasis on various Gharanas (traditional schools of music singing) and the contribution of Sufis to music in the Sub-continent,” the minister added.

Jilani praised Khokhar for writing such an ‘important’ book on classical music.  “It will serve as a guide for all those who are keen to know about the musical heritage of the country,” Jilani said.

Earlier Lok Virsa Executive Director Khalid Javaid elaborated his organisation’s aims and objectives to promote and project musical heritage.

He said there were very few books on music available in Pakistan, especially from authentic musicians, which could guide students and youngsters in learning classical and traditional music.

“The fifth volume on Raag Saroop is part of the series Musical Heritage of Pakistan in collaboration with music expert Ustad Mehfooz Khokar. “The first four volumes written on the subject have already been critically acclaimed,” he said.

Javaid hoped the book will attract the attention of music maestros and hoped that they would transfer their art to the younger generation. “Most of the traditional and classical art in Pakistan is intangible. Masters used to transfer their art verbally to their offspring but no one ever thought of preserving this beautiful form of music,” he said, fearing the art form’s extinction.

The ceremony ended with a live performance by Ustad Khokhar who received plaudit from the audience.

Ustad Mehfooz Khokhar is one of the few music scholars who have been a keen practitioner as well. He has been categorised as an “outstanding vocalist” by Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television. He has also performed at various forums of the country including Belgium, Denmark, Norway, UK and USA.

His fifth book covers about 40 types of classical music along with notations including raags, thumri, dadra, lakshan, tarana, tirwat, kafi, ghazal, qawaali, dhurpad, chatrang, tappa etcetera. He has also introduced a new form of music which he calls Panj Rang - an amalgamation of geet, sargam, tirwat, tarana in the composed form of asthai and antara with lakhshans forming its fifth aspect. This new style of music is the first such endeavour in 200 years of the subcontinent. His other distinction is that he has made hundreds of new taals (rhythms) with different terminologies.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2010.

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