A (Genuinely) Rare Treasure: Links to Music Pakistan box set

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In 2006 the semi-government private Pakistani company Shalimar Recording Company issued a boxset of 57 compact discs titled simply Music Pakistan.  Not marketed very well, if at all, it soon disappeared from view without making much of a ripple.   More the pity because this hefty chunk of digitised music is a massive contribution to the documentation and preservation of global musics.

Pakistan embodies a contradictory position as far as music goes.  It’s many regions, language groups and cultures are the source of some of the most profound and rich folk traditions on the planet.  And not just folk.  Pakistani classical musicians, though less well known than their Indian counterparts, are among the best in South Asia’s gharana-based music. And yet, the official music industry (which includes private companies, government and private broadcasters and government policy-makers) of Pakistan has demonstrated only the most cursory interest in preserving and promoting this unique heritage.

A commercial bias toward film music and passive aggressive stance towards classical music which was often dismissed as too much influenced by Hindu cultural antecedents was almost completely ignored. Folk music, always popular outside middle class living rooms, was left to its own devices, thriving or shrivelling depending on circumstances and shifting audiences.

Institutions like Lok Virsa Folk Heritage Institute in Islamabad tried heroically to bring to folk artists and their music to a national and international audience but always struggled to cope with  restrictive budgets, internal politics and a gargantuan task.  In the past decade or so private citizens have made fantastic contributions to reviving classical music by providing venues, events and recording opportunities for the elders as well as a small handful of up-and-comers. The work of Tehzeeb Foundation has been recognised for its quality not just among Pakistani music circles but on the international stage as well. And of course, the efforts of Sachal Studios and the TV hit show Coke Studio to resurrect the careers of Lahore film studio musicians and make folk music palatable to the Millennial Generation respectively are other high points in the revival of interest in Pakistan’s musical heritage.

But so much remains forgotten, undiscovered or simply ignored. The vaults of Pakistan TV and Radio,  recording companies EMI and Polydor not to mention private collections and archives controlled by various provincial governments  are surely bursting with hours and hours of wonderful music. Will it ever be released? My advice is, do not hold your breath.

Within this context then the Music Pakistan Boxset assumes huge significance.  Taken from the vaults of Radio Pakistan, the music on this vast collection covers classical, folk, spiritual (Sufiana), light classical and film music.  With some recordings stretching back to pre-Independence its focus is clearly on the 50s-80s.  Recent pop music, film music beyond Noor Jehan’s singing, qawwali and music from the smaller ethnic groups are sadly not even touched.   Documentation on individual artists is very minimal, the art work lack lustre and information about the tracks (in some instances) less than accurate and inconsistent.

But production values aside the history that is captured in these performances is simply and without exaggeration priceless.  In certain cases, the recordings are extremely rare.  For anyone with an interest at all in Punjabi, Pakistani, Sindhi, South Asian folk and classical music this collection is absolutely indispensable.  One particularly pleasing element of Music Pakistan is the large place given to female singers including: Zahida Parveen, Farida Khanum, Kajjan Begum, Mehnaz, Noor Jehan, Samar Iqbal, Iqbal Bano, Khurshid Begum, Mussarat Nazir and others.    Among the rare recordings are some early post-Independence performances by Ustad Bundoo Khan (sarangi) and Nazakhat and Salamat Ali Khan as young boys.

Sadly, some of the CDs (such as the Nazakhat/Salamat one referred to above) were poorly produced and unplayable! That frustrating inattention to quality and details that characterises bureaucracies with little interest in the work they are charged to carry out!

I was given a copy of the box set soon after it was released by a dear friend and over several years and several blogs have shared them with the wider world.  Throughout this process I have never once felt guilty about doing so, rather have viewed my efforts as altruistic: promoting and keeping alive a rich and diverse tradition of folk and classical music.  You might be able to find some of these CDs elsewhere on the internet but you’re unlikely to find so many in one place.  And while there are outlets that claim they will sell you the full boxset, I’ve not yet found place that actually will.  You will receive either an ‘Out of Stock’ message or be met with total silence.

Of the 57 original CDs I’ve managed to digitise 46.  I’ve made a 47th out of several stray tracks from original CDs that were poorly produced.  Sadly, that leaves 10 of the original, including ghazals by Barkat Ali Khan, light classical performances by Amanat Ali Kasuri and several others by artists I’ve lost track of.  [Confession: it took me a couple years before I understood exactly what I held in my hands and in that time I tossed out CDs that didn’t work! Fool that I am!]

I am trying, through my contacts to get hold of the outstanding 10 CDs and of course will share them if and when I do. But again: do not hold your breath.

Rather than lament on what is missing I invite you to drink deeply of what IS available.

Here are links to all 47 plus 1 CDs.

I have given each a serial number that does NOT correspond to the original.  That is for personal reasons of no particular consequence.  Simply my way of keeping track of this vast and amazing collection.

  1. Ustad Umeed Ali Khan [Raga Kafi Kannada and Raga Emen]
  2. Mohammad Tufail Niazi [Punjabi Folk Songs]
  3. Salamat Ali [Urdu Ghazals]
  4. Ustad Mohammad Sharif Poonchwaley [Classical Sitar] Vol. 1
  5. Sadiq Ali Khan Mando and Master Sohni Khan [Classical Clarinet]
  6. Roshan Ara Begum [Raga Mian ki Malhar, Raga Neki Kannara and Raga Maru Sarang]
  7. Mai Bhaggi [Thar Folk Songs]
  8. Ustad Amanat Ali Khan [Urdu Ghazals]
  9. Ustad Nathoo Khan [Classical Sarangi]
  10. Hamid Ali Bela [Punjabi Sufi Kalam]
  11. Alam Lohar [Punjabi Folk Songs]
  12. Ustad Nazakhat Ali Khan and Ustad Salamat Ali Khan [Raga Abhogi Kanhra and Raga Kamod]
  13. Ustad Bundoo Khan [Classical Sarangi]
  14. Musarrat Nazir [Punjabi Folk and Pop]
  15. Noor Jehan [Film Hits Vol. 1] and [Vol. 2]
  16. Saeen Ditta Qadri [Classical Flute/Bansuri]
  17. Ijaz Hussain Hazarvi [Punjabi Ghazals]
  18. Farida Khanum [Urdu Ghazals Vol. 1]
  19. Farida Khanum [Urdu Ghazals Vol. 2]
  20. Mukhtar Begum [Ghazals, Dadra and Thumri]
  21. Saeen Marna and Munir Sarhady [Iktara and Sarinda]
  22. Mohammad Jumman and Allan Faqir [Punjabi Folk]
  23. Reshma [Thar Folk Songs]
  24. Ustad Munawar Ali Khan [Classical Vocal]
  25. Iqbal Bano [Thumris]
  26. Ustad Amanat Ali Khan and Ustad Fateh Ali Khan [Raga Bageshri, Raga Multani, Raga Gujri Todi and Raga Pooria]
  27. Ustad Amanat Ali Khan and Ustad Fateh Ali Khan [Raga Des, Raga Barbari, Raga Megh, Raga Malkauns and Raga Kedara]
  28. Iqbal Bano [Urdu Ghazals Vol.1]
  29. Iqbal Bano [Urdu Ghazals Vol.2]
  30. Abida Parveen [Sufi Kalam]
  31. Pathane Khan [Punjabi Sufi Kalam]
  32. Ustad Mohammad Sharif Khan Poonchwaley [Classical Sitar Vol. 2]
  33. Faiz Mohammad Baloch [Balochi Folk Songs]
  34. Mehnaz and Kajjan Begum [Folk Songs]
  35. Suriaya Multanikar [Punjabi Folk Songs]
  36. Kheyal Mohammad [Pashto Folk Songs]
  37. Ustad Misri Khan Jamali [Alghoza Folk]
  38. Hamid Ali Khan [Urdu Ghazals]
  39. Ghulam Ali [Urdu Ghazals Vol. 1]
  40. Ghulam Ali [Urdu Ghazals Vol.2]
  41. Mehnaz Begum [Urdu Ghazals]
  42. Mehdi Hassan [Urdu Ghazals Vol. 1]
  43. Mehdi Hassan [Urdu Ghazals Vol.2]
  44. Ustad Habib Ali Khan [Classical Been]
  45. Various Artists [Folk Sampler]
  46. Zahida Parveen [Sufi Kalam]
  47. Miscellany [Ustad Amanat Ali Khan Kasuri; Roshan Ara Begum; Bashir Ali Mahi]
  48. Ustad Barkat Ali Khan [Urdu Ghazals]
  49. Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan [Classical Tabla]
  50. Various Artists [Classical & Light Classical Vocal]
  51. Bashir Ali Mahi [Light Classical Vocal/ thumri]
  52. Various Artists [Rare Classical Recordings]
  53. Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan [Classical Vocal]
  54. Ustad Nazakhat Ali Khan and Ustad Salamat Ali Khan [Classical Vocal]
  55. Roshanara Begum [Classical Vocal]
  56. Various Artists [Classical Vocal]

 

NOTE: AS AND WHEN THE 10 MISSING DISCS ARE DISCOVERED THEY WILL BE ADDED TO THIS LIST. IF ANYONE IS ABLE TO TRACE ANY OF THEM PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

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From the Archives: Kheyal Mohammad

 

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Kheyal Mohammad

In recent weeks I’ve become virtual friends with the members of a group called Tabla for Two. Abigail (on harmonium, mainly) and Masood (on tabla) are a fantastic little duo based in the NE United States who are bringing Afghan, Pakistani and even Indian folk music to new audiences. And reworking those traditional songs and beats in new ways. I wrote an article on them for Scroll.in as part of my regular Sunday Sounds column which you can read here.

Today on Facebook Masood and Abigail posted a video of them doing a Kheyal Mohammad ghazal.  That got me thinking. It might be time for readers to revisit the sounds of the Khyber Pass (and Khyber Bazaar) from this Pashto hero of music that I posted here nearly 3 years ago.  I hope you enjoy it. The link has been refreshed so feel free to download this rare collection of Pashto songs.

 

Pride of the Pathans: Kheyal Mohammad

Kheyal Mohammad

Kheyal Mohammad

 

The Pashtun people, commonly referred to as Pathans, of South Asia are a tough lot.  Like the scrabbly mountains and remote deserts they call home along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, they are portrayed in popular culture as rugged, ignorant, warrior-like (perhaps even blood thirsty) fundamentalist, child-like and uncouth.   If the wide world knows much about Pathans they probably have a vague idea that the Taliban are mostly Pashtun tribesmen.

 

Of course, this is but one aspect of their identity.  Pashto-speaking tribes are also brave (having driven superpower after superpower out of their lands for centuries), freedom loving, culture and tradition-proud, great story tellers (the main bazaar in Peshawar their great and ancient capital is the famous Qissa Khawani [Story Tellers] bazaar) and sportsmen. For decades the world championship of squash belonged only to one Pathan family, the Khans (Roshan, Torsam, Rehmat, and the invincible Jahangir) of Neway Kelay, Peshawar.

 

And then of course, there is Imran Khan, cricketer extraordinaire, playboy, philanthropist and politician. A Pathan from Mianwali district, in Punjab.  And before we relegate Pathans to a class of backward looking extremists remember, Malalai Yousafzai, the bravest school kid in the world, is also not only a Pathan but her parents, who have insisted upon their daughter being educated, are also Pathans.

 

Pashtun music is heavily influence by Afghan and Iranian musical forms as well as those of India.  The Pashtun folk tradition has a variety of poetic styles a few of which are described below:

 

Tappa is the oldest and most popular genre of the Pashto poetry. The tappa is a composition of two unequal meters, in which the first line is shorter than the succeeding one, yet it reflects all human feelings and aspirations elegantly. Be it laborers, peasants, or women all sentiments find expression in the tappa. It is also common among the Pashtuns that a boy of school would sing it, the elders in their hujrahs, the women in their home and Godar alike. It is the only song sung in the time of grief and on the occasion of marriage. In music it is sung with the traditional Pashto musical instruments rubab and mangai. Tappa has up to 16 different models of harmony and is being sung with full orchestra. In hujrah it’s sung with rubab and sitar.

Charbeta is another popular genre, which consists of an epic poem with special rhythms. There are four kinds of charbetta’s. Normally, it’s a poem of four lines but might also have six or eight lines. All aspects of life are discussed in it. That includes the heroic deeds and heroism by legendary figures and sometime expresses the romantic feelings. The tempo is usually very fast and is sung by two or more singers as part of a chorus in which ones singer reads the first line while the others follow the remaining. The singing or recitation of a charbetta is called tang takore. Traditionally charbetta is started just after the finishing of a tappa.

Neemakai has many different forms and normally women compose it. It is usually very short (1 to 3 lines). The first lines are repeated in the middle of the song and tappa is usually added according to the subject and circumstances. Most of these songs in Pashtoon culture have been expressed in different areas about daily life and love.

Loba is very popular among the masses and are added within tappas occasionally. This is a form of folk music in which a story is told. It requires 2 or more persons who reply to each other in a poetic form. The two sides are usually the lover and the beloved (the man and woman).

Shaan is sung on happy occasions such as marriages and or the birth of a child, and are sung in private congregations and social gatherings.

Badala is a professional form of folk music and consists of an epic poem or a ballad. Instruments used include the rubab, harmonium, mungey or tabla. In badala, tribal traditions are the main theme as well as heroism, tragedies and romance. Badala consists of variations, because each couplet is varied in rhythms from other. It is sung traditionally at night.

Rubayi is a Pashto form of a ghazal. The Rubayis of Rehman Baba are popular among the masses and is sung before the starting of badala. As with the ghazals, the rubayi have been heavily influenced by Arabic, Persian and Turkish poetry. (Wikipedia)

 

Kheyal Mohammad is an immensely popular Pakistani Pashtun singer from Peshawar.  For the first part of his career he specialised as an accompanist, playing tabla and harmonium on Radio Pakistan.  In the late 60’s in a prescient career shift he took to recording ghazals at a time when they were rarely heard on the radio. By the early 80’s the ghazal was seemingly ubiquitous and Kheyal Mohammad’s voice was the most popular among Pastho speaking Pakistanis.  In the early 70’s he began a popular run in the Pashto (Pollywood, anybody?) film industry and has ever since been recognised as one of the most talented Pashto artists of the last forty years.

Kheyal Mohammad renders songs in a traditional manner, choosing pieces that combine mysticism, romance and philosophy, usually with an undertone of melancholy. His voice has impressive range, but is always fully under control. Radio, television and movie producers have paid tribute to his professionalism and ability to produce flawless performances with minimal rehearsal. Zahoor Khan Zaiby, a Pakhtoon composer of Balochi and Sindhi tunes, says “Lala is an expert at harnessing the mood of the moment and the poetry through his voice. The songs from his films are considered Pashto anthems.” (Wikipedia)

 

He has been awarded the highest civil awards of his country and a living legend in Pakistan. This is a collection from the fabulous Music Pakistan series, from the archives of Radio Pakistan.  Wonderful music, just the stuff to set the record straight about the Pathans!

Kheyal Mohammad

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Track Listing:

01 Wa Kheyali Jana Na

02 Gham de Leyone

03 Jananna Sataminh

04 Sata pe Judai

05 Yau de Dala Launon

06 Zane Zarrau Jamokay

07 Sabro Malalay

08 Nare May Walayna Aworay

09 Pass Peh godarolaray

10 Ya Qurban Bailtoon Da

11 Har Yu gul Ponray

12 Da Mangy Ghara ae Shanah

13 Bi Bi Sharinay

14 Bya Kaday Haregi

 

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