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A story of five decades


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the-south-asian.com                               April  2001

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Page  5  of  5

Music in Pakistan - The Story of Five Decades


Khalid Manzoor Basra


Classical Music

Ustad_Salamat_Ali__son_Sharafat_Ali.jpg (10008 bytes)
Ustad Salamat Ali & son Sharafat Ali

Pakistan had a rich representation of all the musical gharanas at the time of partition and the radio had no dearth of talent in this regard. In years to come it arguably developed a musical culture blending elements from all these schools of musical practice. 

In 1947 the front ranking vocalists in Pakistan were:

the great dhrupad singer Mohar-e-Mauseeqi Malikzada Mian Mehar Ali Khan  (the father of Malikzada Muhammad Afzal Khan, Malikzada Muhammad 
Hafeez Khan 
(Talwandi Gharana), 

Ustad Sardar Khan,
Ustad Chand Khan-Ramzan Khan (Delhi gharana), 

Ustad Akhtar Hussain Khan, (the father of Amanat Ali Khan-Fateh Ali Khan), 
Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, 
Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan, 
Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan 
(Patiala gharana),

Roshan Ara Begum, 
Feroze Nizami 
(Kirana gharana), 

Ustad Tawakkal Hussain Khan 
Ustad Umeed Ali Khan 
(Gawalior gharana),

Ustad Bhai Lal Muhammad and his son Ghulam Hussain Shaggan (Gawalior and Kapurthala gharanas),
Aftab-e-mauseeqi Ustad Asad Ali Khan
 (Agra gharana), 

Niaz Hussain Shami, 
Ustad Nazakat Ali and 
Salamat Ali Khan 
(Sham Chaurasi/ Patiala gharana).

The  instrumentalists in 1947 included 

Ustad Mian Qadir Bakhsh Pakhavaji

Ustad Sharif Khan Poonchwalay Ustad Fateh Ali Khan 
(Sitar players) 

Ustad Habib Ali Khan 
(been player), 

Ustad Bundu Khan and his son Umrao Bundu Khan, 
Ustad Nathu Khan, and 
Ustad Ghulam Muhammad 

Ustad Allah Ditta, 
Ustad Karim Bakhsh Pairna, 
Ustad Talib Hussain and 
Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan 

Ustad Nazar Hussain 


A large number of major practitioners of various genres and instruments unfortunately died prior to the media boost and could not be properly recorded, preserved and appreciated. Amongst the instrument traditions of accompaniment, tabla and sarangi both have suffered very badly. Only one major sarangi player, Ustad Nazim Ali Khan is alive. In the period 1993- 96 the three major tabla players of the modern times, Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan, Ustad Talib Hussain Khan and Ustad Baba Tufail died. None of their calibre remains. Altaf Hussain Tafo could be termed their contemporary but he does not have a record of accompaniment and is mainly known for solo playing in his highly individual style and composing film music. Among  the contemporary tabla-players the prominent are Bashir Ahmad, Abdus Sattar Tari, Khalifa Akhtar Jan-ul-Hassan Khan and Ghulam Abbas. Tari and Ghulam Abbas live in the U.S.A., visiting Pakistan occasionally.

The two great sitar players Ustad Sharif Khan and Ustad Fateh Ali Khan are survived by their sons and a few pupils. A number of non-family musicians of amateur background are also prominent in the field. Another major sitar player is Ustad Rais Khan who migrated from India to settle here after getting married to the film singer Bilquis Khanum. His active career, however, is in singing ghazals in which he is not very prominent but which is a more lucrative pursuit in financial terms.

The major classical singers include Roshan Ara Begum,Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, Ustad Ghulam Hussain Shaggan, Hamid Ali Fateh Ali and Imtiaz Ali Riaz Ali. 

The tenacity and strength of the classical music tradition of the country, the belief system of the practitioners and some of its genres are perhaps best embodied in the example of the Talwandi Gharana of dhrupad singers, the only known practitioners of the genre in Pakistan. A brief survey of their history would also show various important forces at work in the period under review.

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The Talwandi gharana of dhrupad singers

At the time of Partition the family was headed by the great dhrupad singer Mohar-e-Mauseeqi Malikzada Mian Mehar Ali Khan. He was born in 1913 trained by his uncle and father in law, Mian Maula Bakhsh and migrated with him to the rich town of Lyallpur in his youth on the invitation of a wealthy Sikh patron. This was a smooth transition after the loss of princely patronage. Till the time of Partition the family performed in traditional settings before highly select audiences cultivating interest in the rich genres of alap and dhrupad

Departure at the time of Partition to India of Sardar Harcharan Singh left the family of these great dhrupad singers to the vagaries of chance, and  after the exhaustion of funds and savings had to turn to the official media with whom they had some success in early fifties due to the personal interest of the Director General Z.A.Bukhari. After Bukhari, the family was left without any support from the media and was mainly supported by the younger son's (Malikzada Muhammad Hafeez Khan) employment with government and private sector in non-musical capacities. The family however continued its daily practice of music and also taught pupils and performed whenever possible.

This resulted in the brothers Malikzada Muhammad Afzal Khan and Malikzada Muhammad Hafeez Khan springing into prominence. Their resurgence also coincides with the resurgence of interest in dhurpad the oldest extant genre of music in our tradition in the Indo-Pak sub continent. The duo has travelled and performed abroad, has evoked considerable research interest and despite all possible opposition from the official media and its attempts at artificial reinterpretation of cultural heritage to suit vested interest continues to flourish and transmit its rich knowledge of music to pupils in the family and outside the family. It also has attracted foreigners who are in training in Lahore where the family’s main proponent Malikzada Muhammad Hafeez Khan resides. The example adequately indicates that such strong forces cannot be diverted and manipulated easily. It also indicates that despite all the criticism levelled against the modern media (even by the orthodox musicians) it is a liberating force which has provided some support to even very esoteric art forms by the general liberation that it has injected in the patronage and propagation structures.



Lahore's music traditions & Lahore Radio

Film Music

Sufi Music

Folk & Ghazal



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