“I am not a man or a woman; I am a vehicle for passion…” (Queen of Sufi music Abida Parveen)
Folk music is a source to carry traditions, feelings and emotions of the people of a country. Pakistan is rich in cultures and languages and there is no dearth of melodious folk songs which were sung for different occasions. Folk music of Pakistan is slow, relaxing, based on sweet lyrics representing the image of the local people. Lok Virsa has been promoting folk singers and took a number of initiatives to promote rich regional folk music of different areas of Pakistan. Lok Virsa also dedicated its two halls to famous legendary folk singers “Zarsanga” a Pashto folk singer and a Sindhi folk music legend “Mai Bhagi” on the occasion of International Women’s Day. Lok Virsa also introduced a new emerging folk singer of Sindh named “Shamo” who sings as sweet as Mai Bhagi.
Dr. Fouzia Saeed,Executive Director of Lok Virsa, said at the inauguration ceremony of Zarsanga Hall on 17th February 2017 that “It is unfortunate that women are disappearing from folk music, but Lok Virsa is providing a platform that enables the mantle of folk music to be passed on to the new generation.”
Executive Director Lok Virsa, Dr. Fouzia Saeed with folk singer Zarsanga at the inauguration ceremony of Zarsanga hall.
Zarsanga Jan, the ‘Queen of Pashtun Folklore’ is that force in our folk heritage which has defied odds to conquer her erroneous homeland and win the hearts of many. Born in Zafar Mamakhel in Lakki Marwat, Zarsanga belonged to the nomadic tribe called Kutanree which travels between Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar. Being illiterate she was unable to sing ghazals and thus concentrate on gharhi and folk songs which are popular among Pakhtoons.
She had also won an international voice competition in Germany organized by Dr. Kabir Stori of Pakhtoon Social Democratic Party.
Zarsanga Jan is singing “Tappa” for the audience
“Lok Virsa feels proud today that we are celebrating a legend Zarsanga, and her services for the Pashto folk music but this is not the end of it and we will keep promoting and celebrating emerging folk singers.” Executive Director Lok Virsa said.
Zarsanga Jan “Queen of Pashtoon Folklore” was Happy and Thanked Lok Virsa for acknowledging her Services for Folk Music
On International Women’s Day, March 8, 2017 Lok Virsa dedicated a hall to the legendary folk singer Mai Bhagi (Late) to honor her services for Sindhi folk music.The legendary Sindhi singer Mai Bhagi (Late) was born as Bhag Bhari, the only female singer from Thar who was recognized on national level in Pakistan. Her songs were recorded by radio and TV and later were released on cassettes. She began to sing Thari songs as a child. Mai Bhagi grew up in a small village surrounded by the vast and unforgiving Thar Desert. Mai Bhagi’s “Kharee neem kay neechey” is one of the most famous songs ever to emerge from the desert that became a national mainstream hit and turned Mai Bhagi into a Sindhi/Thari folk star.
“Lok Virsa will keep supporting folk singers, especially women in folk music and dance. We are proudly bringing new talent at Lok Virsa like “Shamo”, an emerging folk musician from Sindh.” Executive Director, Dr. Fouzia Saeed said at the inaugural ceremony of Mai Bhagi hall.
Executive Director Lok Virsa, Dr. Fouzia Saeed and Sindhi folk singer Shamo unveiling the plaque of the hall named after Mai Bhagi
The inauguration ceremony and concert were graced by Ramesh Kumar, Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, who shared his views on the rights of minorities as well as women singers and workers making their way up in the society and modern world. He also commended the talented voice of the young singer “Shamo” shadowing the legendary voice of Mai Bhagi. He also said that we should encourage and support Shamo to reach the heights of popularity while enhancing her voice as well as promoting folk music.
Ramesh Kumar is enjoying the concert of Shamo
Emerging folk musician Shamo, who is from Dewan Laal, Sanghar, in Sindh, was little confused and gave a beatific smile before she started her performance with Bhajan, and later on, she sang in eight different languages and surprised the audience with her tuneful voice. Everyone who has heard this magnificent projection of calmness often ends up an ecstatically.
Folk Artist Shamo is Playing Harmonium and Singing Bhajan
The Serene Voice of Shamo Forced the Audience to Dance
The concert received huge audience response congratulating Lok Virsa’s efforts in highlighting the importance of women in the society and bringing it to the world.
Woman Decorating a Ball with Beautiful Eye Catching Colors
The event continues for seven days every month. This is a very constructive learning process in which girls and boys from different schools and communities learn to make handicrafts throughout the week. Lok Virsa hires the talented trainers and we provide all the material and equipment to them. The involvement of people from different age groups shows that people still love the handicrafts and art.
Deputy Director Lok Virsa museum Mr. Anwaar ul Haq said that “Lok Virsa organizes this event to keep the handicrafts culture alive and to motivate those people who somehow disconnected from this profession. For the encouragement of participants we start with an opening ceremony every month”. He further added that the real credit of his idea execution goes to Dr. Fouzia saeed who accepted his proposal.
Executive Director Lok Virsa Dr. Fouzia Saeed Appreciating a Woman at “Crafts of the Month”
Executive director Lok Virsa Dr Fouzia Saeed said that Lok Virsa tried its level best to provide a platform for the handicrafts to keep them alive. Craft of the month is one part of our struggle. We are trying to highlight the real value of these crafts. We really want to see this profession flourishing. Lok virsa not only took this initial step of promoting handicrafts but we also formulated a market for them at country level. People from twin cities buy these handicrafts from Lok virsa and show their eagerness to meet and promote these craftsmen.
Every coming day brings new hurdles for the life of craftsmen. On one hand they are worried about their bread earning and on the other hand they have to put in extra efforts to introduce these things to the markets and traders. When they are not paid accordingly they feel compelled to switch their profession. These handicrafts are vanishing day by day due to unavailability and expensive material. Government do not own this profession as it deserves. The few crafts which are alive are only because of the love of craftsmen and the fact is that it is the only bread earning source for many people.
Jewelry Displayed at Lok Virsa Catching the Eyes of Visitors.
Different shops at Lok Virsa are promoting the handicrafts. The craftsmen related to these shops are also providing the training to the students.
Irfan Butt Kashmiri is an expert of “Meena Kaari”. He inherited this skill from his forefathers as Kashmir is enriched with the walnut wood and best artists are present there.
When Irfan was asked about the sale of Meena Kaari, He answered that “due to the expensive wood and hard work involved, the prices are high. People get dishearten when they come to know about the high prices. The Government of Pakistan and Kashmir should take steps to ensure the availability of wood at reasonable rates. This will help to promote the industry of Meena Kaari”.
Irfan is connected to this profession from last 15 years. He is expert in making jewelry boxes, tissue boxes, furniture and cupboards.
Irfan Butt Kashmiri Teaching the Skills of “Meena Kaari” to a Young Girl.
Sheikh Muhammad Yousaf is an expert of Kashmiri “Tappa Kaari” and “Kashida Kaari”. Lok Virsa hires him for the training programs. His whole family is affiliated with this Craft. He believes that despite of new machinery still the people love to buy the handmade Crafts.
Sheikh Muhammad Yousaf Conducting a Training Session at Lok Virsa
Another talented trainer Mukhtar Ahmed Dar teaches “Gabah” and “Namda” to the children. Currently he is the trainer of seven girls from Islmabad Model College. Students are happy and enjoying their work they want to continue it in future. Mukhtar Ahmed said that “It was tried to connect the Gabbah work with machinery but the results were not fruitful. No machine can beat the handmade craft”
Liaqat Hussain khokhar is associated with a very famous Pakistani culture of handmade jewelry. He not only owns a shop at Lok Virsa but also training the people to learn this craft. Liaqat has the same stance that” The high prices are barrier between buyer and seller but this craft needs a lot of hard work and people should try to understand it”. He told us that “When I started, this many people were associated with this activity, but with the passage of time they started ignoring this field due to lack of public interest. I think that the raw material must be available at low prices to promote this craft”.
Liaqat Hussain Telling the Specialty and Techniques of Hand Made Pazaib
Yasmin Kousar is doing the work of “Paper Mashi” since 2003. Decoration pieces are made by this art which are used in interior decoration. This craft is comparatively low priced but requires a lot of human effort. Yasmin Kousar is training 20 school girls in this program of Lok Virsa and the students are providing a good feedback.
Yasmin Kausar teaching the craft of “Paper Mashi” at “Crafts of the month”
The program “Craft of the Month” started one and half years back is now very popular among the public. The trainers, students and associated personals have a point of view that Government must support these crafts financially and by making training centers at different levels.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his mother language that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela
The age of globalisation has seen thousands of people emigrate to other countries in search of better employment and educational opportunities. Sometimes people migrate in order to escape conflicts at home and to find safer and more stable living conditions abroad. This movement from one place to another affects peoples’ mother tongue.
Language is not simply an assortment of words but an entity that connects an individual to his family, identity, culture, music, beliefs and wisdom. It is the carrier of history, traditions, customs and folklore from one generation to another. Without language, no culture can sustain its existence. Our language is actually our identity.
The mother language plays a crucial role in shaping an individual’s personality as well as his or her psychological development, thoughts and emotions. Our childhood is the most important stage of our lives and children can comprehend concepts and skills that are taught to them in their mother tongue quite fast.
Many psychologists believe that a strong bond between a child and his or her parents (especially the mother) is established through exhibition of love, compassion, body language and verbal communication; language.
According to education specialist, Hurisa Guvercin, “When a person speaks his mother tongue, a direct connection is established between heart, brain and tongue. Our personality, character, modesty, shyness, defects, skills, and all other hidden characteristics become truly revealed through the mother tongue because the sound of the mother tongue in the ear and its meaning in the heart give us trust and confidence”.
Unesco Director General Irina Bokova believes that, “mother languages in a multilingual world are essential components of quality education, which in itself is the foundation for empowering women, men and their societies”.
There is no harm in learning another language for it opens up new windows of opportunities and helps us understand life better. A new language gives us a new worldview and makes us more aware of the cultures, lifestyles, customs and beliefs of other people.
The 200 million people in Pakistan speak 72 different provincial and regional tongues, including the official languages, Urdu and English. According to the Parliamentary Paper 2014, 10 out of these 72 languages are either “in trouble” or “near extinction”. The provincial languages of Pakistan are spoken and used in the four provinces – Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. However, these languages, with the exception of Sindhi, have no official status in Pakistan.
Since the most crucial factor is the attitude of those who speak a particular language, it is essential that the state creates a social and political environment that encourages multilingualism and respect for minority languages. It should enact laws that recognise and protect minority languages, encourage an education system that promotes mother-tongue instruction and create creative collaboration between community members and linguists to develop a writing system and introduce formal instruction in these languages.
Lok Virsa’s stance in terms of mother languages is very clear. It considers all the languages spoken in Pakistan as national languages. For the last two years, Lok Virsa has been actively promoting cultural diversity and celebrating mother languages.
To commemorate the UN’s Mother Language Day, a two-day festival titled ‘Our Languages – Our Identity’ will be held in Islamabad on February 18 and 19, 2017. The event will provide a unique opportunity to experience Pakistan’s linguistic and cultural diversity: more than 150 writers, poets and cultural activists will represent Pakistan’s mother languages. This will be followed by a musical evening and poetic night where sessions and mushairas will be held in various national languages.
The aim of the festival is to promote Pakistan’s linguistic and cultural diversity as an instrument of social harmony, peace and tolerance. It also aims to enlighten the new generation of Pakistan by showcasing a wide range of literary works in these languages.
In addition, Lok Virsa has been organising summer camps for children over the last two years to familiarise them with different regional languages and give them an idea about today’s multicultural world with pluralistic identities. Lok Virsa, through regional exhibitions, also promotes the music of regional languages.
It is time all regional languages are given the status of national languages which will bring their speakers from the fringes to the mainstream. If we want to empower our people, we need to give them the opportunity to communicate in their mother language so that they do not feel disenfranchised.
The writer is the media adviser of Lok Virsa.
Goodbye winters..!! Folks here comes spring again with colors, hopes and joy. This colorful season brings lovers together makes trees greener and flowers sprout. People of this land have a royal way of welcoming all forms of weather in great spirits with a jubilant persona. However, the way in which spring season is celebrated is a self-evident exception for spring marks break from the intellectual sorrows of December, frostbite of January and usher in the arid arena of Baisakhi by passing through the old-school verandas of blooming flowers in March. I celebrated it with my people under the bright sky at Lok Virsa with dance, music, food and colorful kites. On 26th of February Lok Virsa celebrated Basant with full zeal and zest to welcome spring in Islamabad. And the lucky ones who made it to Lok Virsa dressed in yellow attire, chunri, gajray and the irresistible beat of dhol and chimta played by the celebrated artists of Jhang.
To top it all a song competition was arranged bringing singers both armature and professionals from across Punjab to present their original songsand special bhangra. To encourage the singers Lok Virsa announced cash prizes for the top three winners of this competition. A variety of different stalls were arranged for people like traditional food, traditional dresses, flowers and jewelry charmed the participants and crowds were seen on the stall of kites. Thankfully, the management of Lok Virsa made security a priority and made this colorful festival safer for people.
An eighty years old but young at heart Wazeer Begum joined us to celebrate the festival of colors. “I love this festival and I cannot thank Lok Virsa enough for arranging this event. I am enjoying dhol and bhangra here.”
Women are busy at Chunri stall… because Lok Virsa knows that nothing charms women like shopping.
Celebration of spring is meaningless without flowers, Lok Virsa arranged special gajra stall for women.
Dr Fouzia Saeed is busy with her friends at Chunri stall…. Yes you can’t stop women from shopping.
We can’t keep calm we are ready for Bhangra….. Fazal Jatt is warming up audience with his magnificent performance.
Ballay Ballay way gudday nu charha mundya..….Niazi Boys are performing with Chimta….. Ayesha, one of the song competitors is restlessly waiting for the results.
Finally the wait is over……Executive Director Lok Virsa Dr Fouzia Saeed is felicitating the top three winners of Basant Song Competition.
This colorful festival ended with the short speech of Dr Fouzia Saeed in which she thanked the singers, dancers and participants for gracing the occasion, adding “I am glad to see that people came here with families and friends and celebrated this festival with the Lok Virsa family. Today the real purpose of this event materialized”. Further she said that “Lok Virsa will keep on providing creative space to talented people from every artistic field”.