Friday, May 6, 2011

Music Pakistan: Alam Lohar and Pathane Khan

Poetry of Waris Shah

Tonight we salute two giants of music. Alam Lohar and Pathane Khan were born in humble homes from which nothing of public importance had come or was expected. Yet they went on to turn the musical landscape of their country upside down and indeed, set standards that are unlikely to ever be bettered.  Alam Lohar, the son of blacksmith from Gujrat in northern Punjab, developed such a powerful performance that he is revered by all Punjabis, regardless of which side of the border from which they hail, as ‘Heera’ (the Diamond) and ‘Sher-e-Punjab’ (the Lion of Punjab).

Pathane Khan, was born in the deep southern districts of Punjabi where the Tharparkar Desert lies like a great dry ocean and where they people speak the ancient language, Seraiki. Just as Alam Lohar reinvented Punjabi folk music, Pathane Khan’s name has become synonymous with Sufi kafi. Despite many comers, no one has been able to surpass Pathane Khan’s interpretation of the poetry of Khwaja Ghulam Farid, or Shah Hussein.

Alam Lohar
Alam Lohar

Alam Lohar was born in the small village of Aach Goach in Gujrat District, in Punjab, Pakistan into a family of blacksmiths. He was gifted with a melodious voice and began singing as a child. Alam Lohar developed a new style of singing the Punjabi vaar, an epic or folk tale. He is famous for his rendition of Waris Shah’s Heer, which he has memorized in 36 styles and forms. He recorded his first album at the age of 13 and has outsold all other singers in Pakistan (Verified in records kept with HMV Pakistan 1979)
In his childhood he used to read sufiana kalaams, Punjabi stories and participate as a young child in local elderly gatherings expressing a vocal only art form in reading passages of great poets. From many of the gatherings out of the rural background rose a great singer that could influence his audience with elements of joy peace, happiness and sadness. Further on: he started going to festivals and gatherings on a regular basis and within these performances he rose to become one of the most listened to singers in South Asia. In 1977,the year of Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee event in the UK Alam Lohar won the award as the best performance and was handed a gold medal for his unique and God given voice.
Alongside his God given voice and singing in difficult high and low pitches he had a unique style of singing with his chimta. Now the chimta has been around for centuries as it was a tool used in gathering livestock in rural settings or used as a aid in other activities, but Alam Lohar has the unique credit that he single handedly popularised this instrument globally and modified its use and changed its outlook.
Other than being a famous singer, Alam Lohar was also a great poet writing his own songs and kalaams and also had another quality that he used old books of Sufi saints and stories and brought them in a song format: which gave his songs overwhelming great lyrical content which could make people cry and express joy at the same time. The word "Jugni" was his creation and he created this term from reading many Sufi writings and represented this word as a spiritual feeling of ones experience of the world. Furthermore he was the pioneer of introducing the writings of Saif Ul Mulook and Mirza Shabaan in a song format.
Alam Lohar had another quality that he had overwhelming singing stamina - he was renowned to sing all night and sometimes without the music technology we have with PA systems now-nevertheless his strong voice could be heard in large gatherings. In rural Punjab he used to sing from village to village and without any modern music technology: his voice reflected with the background of the natural echo caused by the stillness of the night.
In essence, later on Alam Lohar organised a full-fledged theatre with a complete orchestra. His troupe toured all over Punjab for religious and seasonal festivals and was one of the first Pakistani as well as South Asian singers to sing internationally in almost all countries that had people from the South Asian region.
Alam Lohar died in an accident near Sham ki Bhaitiyan on July 3, 1979. He was laid to rest in Lala Musa, Punjab, Pakistan. He was given the Pride of Performance award in 1979 by General Zia Ul Haq in Islamabad and has received numerous awards within his lifetime. He is a pioneer in cultural and Folk styled singing and has in his own right become a folk story. He set a bench mark and many Punjabi and other folk singers have greatly been influenced. Therefore he has left a great legacy of a unique style of singing which is still followed in Pakistan by Punjabi as well as other folk singers. One of the greatest singers of all time: he is seen and remembered through his son Arif Lohar who has continued in the same tradition. (Wikipedia)

            Track Listing:
1.    Turday Mirzay Jat
2.    Wey din charney tay
3.    Too jeevain bairiwaleya
4.    Gairi rang pooshak
5.    Bolay Akbar Badshah
6.    Aagay hokey dawood nay
7.    Jiyun kar khawaja
8.    Dullay noon jaman walleye
9.    Ik Din karan shikar shikari
10. Bhabiyaan nay haal
11. Mauju Jat (pt 1)
12. Mauju Jat (pt 2)
13. Ae Sultan Hussain di nagri
14. Punjabi Folk Song

Pathane Khan

Eleven years have passed but yet the legend of the great Pathane Khan still remains, whose lilting sweet yet pain filled Saraiki songs are absorbed by lovers of folk music. Pathane Khan or Ghulam Mohammad, was born in 1926 in the village Basti Tambu Wali, situated in the heart of the Thar Desert, several miles from Kot Addu, Punjab. When he was only a few years old, his father, Khameesa Khan, brought home a third wife after which his own mother decided to leave her husband. She took Ghulam Muhammad along and went to Kot Addu to stay with her father. When the boy fell seriously ill, his mother took him to the house of a spiritual doctor who advised her to change his name because it seemed ‘too heavy for him’ as the doctor is known to have said. Meanwhile, folk stories say that the doctor’s daughter commented that he looked like a Pathana. In the region of South Punjab, the name Pathana symbolises love and valour, so from that day onwards he was known as Pathane.
Pathane Khan

Pathane was close to his mother but much as she tried to send him to school, his nature kicked in and soon he started to stray away from school and began to start wandering, contemplating and singing. It is quoted by people who knew him then that this was his own father’s characteristic too. By the time he was in his seventh class, he began to sing kafis by Khwaja Ghulam Farid, who was a Bhawalpuri saint.
Khwaja Ghulam Farid

His first teacher was Baba Mir Khan, who taught him everything he knew. Singing alone did not earn him enough, so the young Pathane Khan started collecting firewood for his mother, who used to make bread for the villagers. This enabled the family to earn a very modest living. It is said that at an older age, when Pathane Khan talked about his childhood, remembering those days brought tears in his eyes and he believed that it was his love for God, music, and Khwaja Farid that gave him the strength to bear this burden.

Pathane adopted singing as a profession in earnest after his mother's death. With his voice heavy with expressions, his singing had the capacity to attract and entrance his listeners, and he himself could in turn sing for hours. Khan’s reverence for Khawaja Ghulam Farid was absolute. Khawaja Farid was everything for him and he derived all his spiritual strength from him. One rarely sees a singer who can understand and render poetry as good as Pathane Khan rendered Khawaja’s poetry for the audience. His reading style was so clear and popularly punctuated that even a non-Saraiki speaker could follow the text and meanings of most words. It remains the best-kept secret that Pathane Khan sung much better when he was unaccompanied by tabla, because it was in raw form.

Depending on his mood, Pathane would sing the same kafi in different ragas. However, unlike other famous singers, he would never brag or mention that he was changing the raga for a particular kafi. It naturally flew from his heart and he remained oblivious to the technicalities. Pathane Khan learned music from Amir Khan, a local musician who was a descendant of Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan. He was not trained as a classical musician and learned musical techniques during his singing at mela gatherings. His singing absorbed the essence of masses, their aspirations and miseries. Nonetheless, Pathane had a great desire to sing a classical raga and tried to convince Ustad Chote Ghulam Ali Khan to teach him. Pathane Khan gave his own deeper meaning to Khawaja Sahib’s poetry in his typical style and sprit of singing.

Pathane Khan is known to have elevated the form of kafi to a much higher level than his predecessors. Khan’s famous musical pieces include Meda ishq vi tun, Ghoom charakhda ghoom, Mai vi jana jhok, Mera ranjhan hun and Kya haal sunawan. Pathane was given the pride of performance award by the president of Pakistan. He embodied his own unique style in singing. He died in March 2000, after protracted illness. But among those desert flowers of Thar, and everywhere else in Pakistan, the scent of his presence prevails gently, never diffusing from the minds of people. (Biography thanks to Xari Jalal at Light Within)

            Track Listing:
1.    Meda Ishq Vi Tu
2.    Ghoom Charakhna Ghoom
3.    Kya Haal Sunawan
4.    Main Vi Jaana Jhok
5.    Mera Ranjhan Hun Koi
6.    Vajjay Allah Wali Taar


Miguel said...


you made my day again...

thank you!

did I tell you, that I love the way you present your posts... oh sorry must have forgotten to do so... well it's never to late, is it :)


S A J Shirazi said...

Thanks for stopping by at Light Within. Let us know each other more so that we are no more ajnabi...

ajnabi said...

Thanks very much. Enjoy the lion.

ajnabi said...

Shirazi sahib,
Aap ke email kya hai?

Anonymous said...

Thats great information,Pathane Khan is a legend. I am a pathan but i love to listen him as his voice makes me understand the peotry of saraiki , I dont know wheither he was born to sing the poetry of sufi or sufi wrote the poetry for him.

Dr.Bukhari said...

Thanx.. Pic on CD definitely doesnt belong to Pathana Khan as He was my city-mate and i knew him right from childhood.

Saleem said...

I agree that is not his picture, I had seen him long b4 he was popular and had seen him singing in front of a Mazar in some small town, what a beautiful voice he had and I was wondering was he was not given a chance on TV. That was 1n 80's a french Canadian was making a documentary and was travelling by road and had shown Lahore city also. I live in Canada since 1971, That's how I know. Later in 1990 when I visited Pakistan I saw him on TV singing.
Saleem Farooqui