Soft music, vocals, pretty cinematography and the moving image of a little girl-child from rural Sindh clutching her doll on her journey to school. Whether or not you understand the Sindhi language, this song’s video will strike a chord. Meena, the latest offering of the Jamshoro-based Sindhi band The Sketches, brings forth the issue of education for the girl-child as well as peace and harmony in a soft package that will tug at the heart strings of viewers.
As Saif Samejo, the lead vocalist for The Sketches, croons in the backdrop of the scene of a child’s journey between dreams and reality, the seriousness of the problem hits home. And for once in a post-Malala world, the girl-child from a part of Pakistan other than Swat is the focal character.
This is the band behind the Lahooti Music Aashram, the first ever formal music school in Jamshoro and Hyderabad. The band became famous via Coke Studio 4 with the song Mand Waai.
It is encouraging that a song sung in a regional language is inspiring interest and making viewers think about the plight of the child who both wants, and deserves an education, but finds an empty ghost school staring back at her when she and her doll reach school. However, this sadness is coupled with hope at the end. This child grows up to be a teacher in the same school, teaching other little girls like her. One would hope that Sindhi language channels, as well as mainstream prime channels, will give this song its due acknowledgement.
While being simplistic in its approach and trying to squeeze in more than one social message in a single song makes it a bit heavyheaded, the effort is one that needs to be lauded. Both the messages tackled in the song are important ones. With some 5.5 million Pakistani children out of school, according to the latest UNESCO report, Pakistan has the second highest number in the world for out of school children. Equally important is the sensitisation of people towards pluralism. “There is a dire need to provide a counter narrative,” is what Saif Samejo had said in an earlier interview with The Express Tribune, talking about the powerful impact of narratives that lead to extremism and sectarianism. He had added that “Sindh is a place where Ramdas and Allahdita are buried together, and nothing should threaten such pluralistic values.”
The stereotypical image of the people of Sindh as complacent and not into full-throttle social activism may be changed through the work of Sindhi musicians of today. They are out there with their messages, proactively talking about what they believe in, whether through satire like Ali Gul Pir, or through message-laden music like Saif Samejo. These musicians deserve a pat on the back for throwing a pebble in still waters. A ripple effect may well have begun.
Sindhi language and music stemming from the culture of Mehran already have an advantage when it comes to mysticism and spirituality. The message of peace thus comes naturally to them. It is also interesting to note that the message is coming from a province, the inherent history and culture of which boasts of harmony and peaceful co-existence. Thus, The Sketches have drawn upon the province’s inherent reservoir that brims with the message of peace.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2014.