For Ismail and Junaid, revival of Pashtun culture comes first

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 3:59:55 by


The Peshawar-based musical duo Ismail and Junaid, recently unveiled the video of their new song Pakhwa.

The lyrics of the song are based on the poetry of the famous Pashtun poet Ameer Hamza Khan Shinwari and the video, which has been shot in various locations of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan over a period of three months, has been edited and directed by Shoaib Anwar. The band claims that the song is very different from their previous tracks and will act as a catalyst in changing the prevalent conditions of the small but developing Pashtun music industry, which seem to be distorting the region’s culture.

The song begins with the composition of legendary Pashto singer and composer Rafiq Shinwari, who primarily sang the sufi poetry of Ameer Hamza Khan and was well-known for his rare husky voice. It is followed by acoustic guitar riffs from Junaid Khan, the guitarist and backing vocalist of the band. The word ‘Pakhwa’, that means ‘in the past’, was particularly chosen as the title of the track to reflect the harsh realities faced by the Pashtuns. Exploring the delicate details of their lives, the song is rather a tribute to all those who lost their lives in that region battling for peace. The song aims to relieve the younger generation from the frustrations that it currently braces through its upbeat and youthful spirit.

Ismail and Junaid believe that there is a need to make to music that can renew a sense of pride among the Pashtun youth for their culture. PHOTO: FILE

The musical pair, Ismail and Junaid, has tried to blend both traditional and contemporary sounds together while incorporating Ameer Hamza’s soulful poetry to give a fusion feel to the song. “We initially thought we would use a more western-influenced, hip-hop kind of music but then we realised that we will be no different from others who are destroying the Pashtun culture through their senseless music,” said Ismail, the lead vocalist of the band.

The band made its debut around two years back with their super-hit Pashto song Qarar. Soon after receiving immense appreciation for their first song, they released their second track titled Ranra. Pakhwa is the band’s third project which has garnered more attention from people living abroad than those living within the region. According to the band’s main singer Ismail, the response from locals has been rather slow but those living abroad have shown tremendous appreciation. In fact, the viewership of the subtitled version of the song, translated by Shafiullah Ahmad Zai, Haris Ali, and Mya Rehman, exceeded 0.5 million clicks within just five days.

The duo remains focused on conveying strong messages through their songs and seems to be extremely passionate about Pashtun culture. They believe that music has the power to change the society and that Pashtun musicians can renew a sense of pride for their cultural identity among the youth. “All Pashto singers are great and have nice, melodious voices but we feel ashamed that their work is more or less distorting our cultural identity,” said Ismail.

In a relatively short period of time, the band has managed to inspire quite a few with many going to the extent of copying their songs or adopting similar techniques. In fact, there are a handful of bands that incorporate Ameer Hamza’s poetry in their songs such as Yasir and Jawad, Khumaryan and the relatively new Ghag. “We are happy that Pashto singers are now copying us. Many young pop singers are emerging, who are more concerned about preserving the culture and we really hope that they make a difference,” said Junaid, adding that their upcoming projects will also revolve around preserving the Pashtun cultural identity.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2013.

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