Pashtoon is a unique nation. The Pashtoons are a romantic people and extremely love music but don't like musicians. This seems very strange on their part, but there is a background to this. The musicians would belong to lower cast of the society and they adopted music as their profession for livelihood, while Pashtoons are warrior people and like manly professions. The other reason may be the soft and delicate nature of this profession, which is considered among the Pashtoons to be the job of women folk. If we look at the history of nation, they are rough tough people. They have their own taste of aesthetics. They are fond of music and have very romantic approach towards it. The disliking for musicians has some grounds. The musicians earning through music is thought to be against Pashtoon character. The Pashtoons only like the profession of soldiery and agriculture. They have less patience for all other professions.
If we look through ages the Pashtoons have promoted music indirectly by generously spending on it rather lavishly by giving too much money to the musicians for their performance. This way the Pashto music has developed. The Pashto music has very rich traditions though so far not written in notation locally, but by tradition it transfers from one generation to the other. Very little is written about it in the past. However, some of the notations and symphonies have survived, other are created and being transferred practically. Before the coming of radio, the mullahs sternly opposed the music but Pashtoon would carryon their musical ceremonies.
Apart from the professionals the staunch Pashtoon would practice music in his hujras and love to play 'Rabab' or 'Sitar" with the beating of 'Mangay' (water pot) as a drum. He would like to sing folk songs but not as profession. So the Pashto music has not written but has a long history and tradition. Pashto music has its own terminology for teaching, but professional musicians have been using the Indian musical terminology. The use of Indian terminology is common because the rich music of India has influenced the Pashto music due to interaction of both the cultures. The reason is that the professional musicians used to come from the sub-continent of India. Besides this the Pashtoon would practice his original music non-professionally in the privacy. So we have a history of our own nature of Pashto music, which started like other nations from folklore. In folklore the Pashto has a very rich history. The Pashto doesn't have in writing its own mode of music. Much of the and antes have been taken from Indian 'Ragas' for harmonizing the Pashto tunes. From so many 'Ragas' of India only Bhairvien Raga is popular among the Pashtoons because of its evergreen melodious composition fit for all seasons, times and geographical conditions. The same raga was first of all adopted for the composition of Pashto 'Tappa' an evergreen and most popular folk genre of the Pashto folk poetry. Then all the Pashto songs were based on this unique genre.
The music of the Pashtoons are a product of the unique social and cultural life of the Pashtoons. The inhospitable terrain of their homeland has had an impact on their diverse musical heritage. Rich in content, it has a reflective style rooted in the history and ideals of the people. Pashto music has two distinct aspects:
But both retain the basic Pashto style.
The classical music amongst the Pashtoons has its origin in the historical movements that affected every part of the sub continent. Being a volatile region which suffered the brunt of every invasion, no alien music could take roots here. Hence there is not the slightest trace of classical music before the end of the eighteenth century. It was at the beginning of the nineteenth century that some of the classical vocalists, who were uprooted from their homes, settled here and founded the classical music amongst the Pashtoons.
Among them, Baba Sindhi was the first vocalist to come from Kapoorthala. He was a grandmaster and it was his school from where classical music flourished and reached out to other areas. His son Ustad Abdul Karim Sindhi, grandsons and a large number of students, introduced classical music to the other Pashtoons – even to the court of the Kabul rulers. The pioneers included the Ustad’s son Fazal Ilahi and the eminent percussionist Faqir Qadir Bakhsh Peshawari, who migrated from Lahore. Ustad Abdullah Jan was another great vocalist who participated in music festivals all over India. Others who became very popular were Ustad Muhammad Khan known as Ustad Mehmanda, Bailal Chela; who came from Patiala, and Professor Miran Bakhsh.
The beginning of theatre gave a boost to music. Though many of the classicists were not attracted to theatre, Mian Karim Sindhi composed and conducted music for the plays staged by New Albert Theatrical Company and Moon Theatrical Company of Peshawar. He also acted in some plays. His son Fazal also composed and sang for All India Radio.
Among others, Ustad Ghulam Hussain was a great name. His popularity extended to Afghanistan to the extent that he became known as Ustad Ghulam Hussain Kabuli. He also opened a school of music in Kabul and composed music for Radio Kabul. Akbar Jan Peshawari was a superb performer who also participated in many films.
Many vocalists and instrumentalists have made a name for themselves in the Frontier and Beyond. Even today there are many who are keeping the classical tradition alive in Pashto music despite the current trend towards fusion. They include Mahjabeen Qizilbash, Zarsanga, Javed Akhtar, Rahim Shah, Gulzar Alam, Haroon Bacha, Siyal Ahmad, Khyal Muhammad, Naghma and Wagma.
Like all traditional societies, the Pashtoons too have a great and rich treasure of folk music. The songs are characteristically dance songs. Others are performed in solo as well as in chorus.
Among them, are the Tappa, Charbeta, Neemkai, Loba, Shaan, Saakhmani, Badala, Ghazal, Rubayi, etc. These are explained below.
Tappa is the oldest and most popular genre of the Pashto poetry. It is liked very much by the Pushtoons of all ages irrespective of their age and sex. Countless Tappas have been added by unknown poets and are sung with unsurpassed popularity. Lyrically, the Tappa is a composition of two unequal meters, in which the first line is shorter than the succeeding one, yet it reflects all human feelings and aspirations elegantly. Be it laborers, peasants, or women, everyone’s sentiments find expression in the Tappa.
It is also common among the Pashtoons that a boy of school would sing it, the elders in their hujrahs, the women in their home and Godar alike. It is the only song sung in the time of grief and on the occasion of marriage. In music it is sung with the traditional Pashto musical instrument 'Rabab' and 'Mangay'. Tappa has upto 16 different models of harmony. Nowaday it is being sung with full orchestra. Tappa is the song, which used to be sung without musical instruments but musicians have composed different compositions for it. In mountains and in the deserts, it is still sung without some instruments. In these places, some times is sung with the melody of flute. In hujrah it's sung with Rabab and Sittar and the beating of a water pot. Among the different tunes of Tappa, the tone of teerah, Peshawar, Bannu and Qandahar is popular. A new tone has recently been created by the famous Pashto singer. Haroon Badshah. A part from the Indian notation, it has its own Pashto andante-- Mughalai.
More description of the Tappas can be found here.
Charbetta is another popular Folklore genre, which comes after the Tappa. This tone is most popular form of Pashto Poetry and is a source of pride for the Pashtoons. It is unique in its form. It is epic poem with special rhythm. There are four kinds of Charbetta regarding its genre. Normally, it is a poem of four lines but might also have six or eight lines. All aspects of life are discussed in it. That includes the heroic deeds and heroism by legendary figures. Sometime it expresses the romantic feelings. It has a very fast music and is sung by two or more singers as part of a chorus in which ones singer reads the first line while the others follow the remaining. The music and singing of Charbetta used to be called TANG TAKORE. The term Tang Takore later on became the form for musical concert in Pashto. Traditionally Charbetta is started just after the finishing of Tappa. Two three Charbetta's have been notated in the raga Bheirvein and is therefore written.
Is another popular Folk song. It has a different kind of form normally the women compose it. It is simple in form and has 1,1/2 lines sometime 2,3 lines. The first lines are repeated in the middle of the song. Pashto Tappa is added according to the subject and circumstances. It is the real kind of Pashto songs. There are Nemakai, which can be sung without adding of Tappa, because some form of it has two and half lines of poetry in it-self. Most of these songs in Pashtoon culture have been expressed in different areas about the local -or romances. Other subjects are also there for example the love affairs and daily life. Some of the Nemakais have been notated in the different Indian ragas.
Lobah is another popular genre of the Pashto folk songs. It too has been very popular among the masses. Sometimes Lobahs are added with Tappas. But as the of genre is play, so the form of this song is sung oftenly in chorus and two sides of singer reply to each other in singing. These two sides are usually the lover and the beloved. Some Lobahs have a drama like structure and poetic dialogues are sung in it. Commonly all the folk songs are called Lobas. Lobah in structure is very near to Neemakai. But both are different from songs.
Shaan is a song of happiness. It is sung on occasions such as that of marriages and childbirths. These can be sung in private congregations and social gatherings.
Badala is too a popular folk genre. But is sing by the professional singers only. Because Badala is like an epic poem or a ballad. Badala has a -composition of music. It is sung with Rabab, Harmonium, Drums and Tabla. In Badala, tribal traditions are the main theme. Heroism and other Tragedies and comic stories are expressed in this form. Badala is the folk form of classical mathnavi. Badala means variation because each couplet is varied in rhythms from other. It is sung traditionally in the midnight, which is suitable tone for its music and enjoyment. Almost all the Pashto romances have been narrated in this form of poetry.
Rubaee is the famous name of a kind of Pashto Ghazal. It is different from the classical genre of Rubaee. Actually it is Ghazal but in a particular composition of music it has become famous as rubaee. The Rubaees of Rehman Baba are popular among the masses. It is sung in a special composition of music before the starting of Badala or any other folk song. The name is given by the folk, other wise Ghazal of 12 syllables of meter can be sung in a rubaee. Along with the Ghazal, the Rubayi have come from Arabic and Persian Poetry and is very much influenced by it.
Ghazal is the classical genre of poetry. It was popularized by the musicians. It has come very late to the Pashto music and only educated class of Pashtoons like it. Who are familiar with Urdu or Hindi Ghazals and have developed a taste for it. The masses don't like it very much because of its slow music and rhythm. Reference: Pashto Music Prof. Dr. Raj Wali Shah Khattak Excerpts from Sheikh Aziz's 'The Richness of It All' http://www.khyber.org/culture/music/pashtomusic.shtml