If you are a long time reader of this blog you’ll be familiar with my expressions of regret and dismay at the state of the music industry in Pakistan. There are, of course, many reasons for this: relatively small population, the arc of politics toward repressive, military regimes, the persistent criticisms of the more conservative religious elements in society, lack of investment in the production and distribution of music, cultural wars, real wars and so on.
And while the consistent lack of genuine patronage from government and government-controlled media has hurt all the arts, classical music and its related art forms such as dance and drama, have had to absorb the brunt of this deleterious ‘policy’.
Which is a crying shame because it has given the impression that Pakistan is a classical music wasteland with nothing to offer the world. Instead, attention has focused on qawwali and ghazal, especially artists like the Sabri Brothers, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mehdi Hassan and Ghulam Ali. The casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that fine classical music can be found only in India and that the qawwals and ghazal singers of Pakistan are simply ‘the best’ in the world, and those in other countries are somehow lesser artists. Neither position, of course, is accurate. Both countries (and indeed, Bangladesh, which has an incredibly rich and diverse musical heritage of its own) have produced and continue to produce some of the most exciting musics of all genres and styles. And I’m excited to share some of that with you in this post.
Again, if. you’re familiar with this blog you’ll be aware of how I’ve raved repeatedly about one of the most amazing single collections of South Asian music ever produced, the Shalimar Recording Company’s Music Pakistan 57 CD Box Set. If there was any doubt that Pakistan has not produced some of the most powerful and moving Hindustani classical music in the recent past then a quick listen to some of the classical performances by artists like Mohammad Sharif Poonchwaley or Roshana Begum or Umeed Ali Khan [to mention just a few] will quickly provide a resounding rebuttal.
All right, I hear some say, that stuff is decades old, made back when classical music held a more prominent position in the culture. When those artists died off, so did their art.
The Tehzeeb Foundation, based in Karachi, is probably the most important institution dedicated to keeping the ancient traditions of Hindustani classical music alive in Pakistan. Founded by Sharif Awan, the Foundation’s role in preserving but more importantly promoting and creating space and awareness and appreciation for Pakistan’s classical music heritage for new audiences is incalculable. With annual Festivals (one of which I had the pleasure of attending in Karachi in 2014) that regularly bring both established and emerging artists together for several days of performances the Foundation has given a late career glow to singers such as Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and sitarist Rais Khan as well as helping establish the careers of a host of younger artists.
In addition to the Festival that regularly brings in artists from across the borders of India, thereby doing its bit for breaking down political borders as well as demonstrating the great continuity and connectedness of the Hindustani classical music tradition, the Foundation produces CDs. For his labour of love Awan has been accorded international recognition and some of the Foundation’s recordings have been nominated for and won international awards.
The box set Indus Raag (Gold Edition) released in 2017 is, like the Music Pakistan box set referred to above, a stellar production of the highest musical quality and cultural value. Sixty six performances, all recorded live at Tehzeeb Festivals, make the case that the state of Hindustani classical music in Pakistan today is very healthy indeed.
Rather than provide a track listing of all 66 tracks I have created links to all the music.
Disc One: Fateh Ali Khan and Vishwamohan Bhatt [Jugalbandi – vocal and Mohanveena]
Disc Two: Mubark Ali Khan [vocal]
Disc Three: Kamal Sabri [sarangi]
Disc Four: Javed Bashir [vocal]
Disc Five: Mumtaz Ali Sabzal [benjo]
Disc Six: Asad Qizilbash [sarod]
Disc Seven: Fateh Ali Khan and Raza Ali Khan [vocal]
Disc Eight: Mazhar Ali [vocal]
Disc Nine: Rais Khan [sitar]
Disc Ten: Naseeruddin Saami [vocal]
Disc Eleven: Ashraf Sharif Khan [sitar]
Disc Twleve: Salamat Hussain [bansuri]
Disc Thirteen: Fateh Ali Khan and Karam Abbas Khan [vocal]
Disc Fourteen: Ghulam Hassan Shaggan [vocal]
Disc Fifteen: Faran Khan and Kamal Sabri [vocal and sarangi]
Disc Sixteen: Hamid Ali Khan [vocal]
Disc Seventeen: Sarangi Ensemble [sarangi]
Disc Eighteen: Sajid Hussain, Kamal Sabri, Sarangi Ensemble [sitar and sarangi]