Of Sindh, Sufis and Cricket: Bijal Khan Mehar and Dayam Khan

Hurs charging against the British

Hurs charging against the British

The opening song of this sensational collection of Sindhi sufi songs is a paean to Pir Pagaro, a figure of some influence in multiple spheres of Pakistani public life.   When I lived in Pakistan about 25 years ago the Pir was a figure of much derision and cynicism among my circle of friends as he was seen as the worst sort of feudal figure with obvious ambitions to be ever close to the beating heart of political power.

 

6th Pir Pagaro Mardan Sha

6th Pir Pagaro Mardan Sha

But his political king-making was but one aspect of his cult.  He was also respected by all Pakistanis as one of the important patrons of the game of cricket (the national madness). Over the years he supported many of Pakistan’s most promising players, often sending them to the UK for mentoring and training, out of his own funds.  He himself played a single game of First Class cricket.

 

His political destiny was one he inherited from his father and grandfather, who as heads of a sufi movement known as  the Hurs  (pure ones), led a long resistance to the rule of the British.  The Hurs were brutally repressed but never defeated, even though the 6th Pir Pagaro (the current Pir’s grandfather) was captured and hanged by the colonial regime.  Patriotism and independence and free thinking run deep in the line of the Pirs. The 7th Pir (Mardan Shah), whom we despised back in the 80s, was a keen puppet master in the Alice-in-Wonderland politics of Pakistan, and for many years served as President of the Pakistan Muslim League (one of the country’s two major parties).

 

Most important to the people of Sindh, however, is the Pir’s leadership of their spiritual band, and it is undoubtedly to these attributes that the opening song is referring, not the sport or political shenanigans.

 

For all my time in Pakistan I was unable to spend any time in Sindh as it was a lawless place then and now. Completely spiritual and holy as well and full of a deep religious and mystical air.   The more I am exposed to the music and very tolerant, syncretic culture of Sindh the more I regret my failure to visit. And as I listen to this collection I can say I ‘miss’ Sindh even though I’ve not truly set foot in the place!

 

The music comes from the bosso folk label De Kulture out of Jaipur but records the voices and playing of nomadic traditional musicians from the far western reaches of Rajasthan. In the past these people would have travelled (and probably many still do) freely across the Pakistan/India border, hence their allegiance  to Pir Pagaro.  The two main peformers are from Barmer in Rajasthan.  Bijal Khan Mehar and Dayam Khan.

 

Fantastic music. Plain and simple.

Sufi Kalam Sufi Kalam back

Track Listing:

01 Pir Pagaro

02 Nukta Yaar Padhaya

03 Allah Jane

04 Pal Pal Pur Pawan

05 Jogi Aaya

06 Duma Dum

07 Har Rang Di

08 Sir Ishq Mein

09 Dadho Nihi

✪✪★

 

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