Craftsmanship of classical music instruments on verge of extinction in city of artisans

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By Adeel Saeed

PESHAWAR, Jan 12 (APP):Passing through the labyrinth of alleyways in historic Peshawar city, one becomes bewitched by the beat of traditional Tabla (hand-drums) and to the tune of rabab (guitar) echoed in the market owned by the craftsmen-manufacturers who adhered to the centuries old legacy of making classical music instruments.

The Peshawar’s historic name is `Pesha War’ (Skillful-Persons) which means that the city was recognized in history as `City of Artisans’ due to ample livelihood facilities provided by the generosity of its dwellers to the people of the region.

The artisans busy at work of thumping stretched out dry animal hide to adjust beat of hand drums or twisting strings to set tunes of rabab (guitar) takes passerby to nostalgic time of swinging to the tunes of classical music.

However, over the years, like other handicrafts in the region, the profession of making musical instruments, particularly the classical ones, have also witnessed decline due to modernity and innovation in the music industry.

Sitting in shops located in Mohallah Shah Burhan in the interior city, a couple of shopkeepers are displaying handmade musical instruments for sale including hand drums, rababs and tambourine. These shopkeepers share the same lineage with the art of making and repairing of musical instruments from the last one century.

Talking to APP, an artisan by profession, Ahmad Ali said, “Our grandfather, Rahim Buksh, migrated from Gujrawala district of Punjab to Peshawar and started this art as a mean of livelihood. The profession is continued by our father, Rahim Murtaza and we the third generation also inherited it in succession.”

He said that the knack of preparing classical music instruments in Peshawar is in danger of disappearance because only a few skillful persons associated with it are continuing it. While elaborating his concern, Ahmad Ali said that unlike his elders and they themselves, the art is not adopted by their children as a profession due to deep slump in business.

In fact, “We decided discontinuation of this vocation by our children because of dwindling income due to modernity in melody choice diverting focus of people from classical music to the latest DJ (Disc Jockey) style”, He added.

The craftsmanship will not be available in future and classical music lovers in Peshawar will have to face a dead end due to difficulties in finding out perfect instruments manufacturers besides mechanics to repair the instruments already in use.

Rahim Mujtaba, another artisan in the same locality said that he is associated with the art of manufacturing and repairing of musical instruments for the last 40 to 45 years. But the economic recession they are being faced with during the last 12 to 15 years, is unprecedented, making it difficult for them to make both ends meet.

He said, “The process of crushing iron in metal mortar and pestle is very cumbersome exercise which not only consumes time, but also needs a lot of physical strength.”

Zarshad, a hand drum beater said, “I came from Charsadda district to get my hand drums repaired as there is no shop or person in our area to do this job.” He said that people associated with classical music are facing very tough time due to reduction in demand in the market.

Holding of music shows by TV Channels, especially regional, have provided a lot of opportunity to music performers and their number increased, but if there is no professional person for tuning of music instruments, people will face a lot of problem, Fazle Rauf continued.

Raiz Ahmad, Assistant Director Culture Department KP said, “Culture department is cognizant to the problems being faced by music lovers and artisans associated to manufacturing and repairing of instruments.”

He said that KP Culture Department launched `Support to Living Human Treasure’ project with the objective of extending financial support to artist community.

Under the project, a stipend of Rs. 30,000 was paid to around 500 persons including singers, musicians and Tabla (hand drum) players. The project ended around six months earlier after completing two years of its stipulated period.

He said, “We realize that the decade long wave of militancy has left very negative impact on earning of music performers. The Culture Department is working to help and support them through different projects, he added.