Music—the tie that binds

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Bannu: Abdur Rehman Derpa Khel is confident that music will revive in North Waziristan (NW) and other tribal areas of Fata.

“The way the Internally Displaced People from NW are arranging musical concerts in Bannu and are participating in musical and dance performances, it shows the trend will follow post-NW Operation period,” said Derpa Khel

Derpa Khel had to leave NW when the Taliban began hitting at the singers and musicians.

Derpa Khel has survived threats on his life and talent coming from the Taliban. Just as many musicians and singers were leaving their trade following Taliban’s decree condemning music, he was creating new liaison with music.

Taliban has banned music in Fata. They would burn down music shops and beat to death people found listening or even appreciating music in any form. Not only music even poetry would rough up the Taliban’s nerves.

“I was on the hit list of the Taliban. They warned me repeatedly to leave music. How could I possibly do that? I would have died, without music; therefore, I left my home and came to Bannu. This was the only way to save my art. Had I been living in NW I would have been killed by now,” said Derpa Khel

In May 2006, a pro-Taliban militant cleric announced a ban on music and video shops in NW.

He told News Lens Pakistan that though Pashtuns like music, they somehow do not allow their children to adopt this as a profession.

“I was between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand were the Taliban and, on the other hand, my own people,” said Derpa Khel

Having a family of ten members and music the only source of income, he is literally living from hand to mouth and needs government’s assistance, but none has come by so far.

“I am unable to pay my son’s admission fee as I have left all that I had in NW,” he lamented, adding that even the previous government of Awami National Party had been insensitive to protect music and musicians.

Many singers said good-bye to music to keep their body and soul together in the absence of any patronage from the government.

Poet and writer Sabir Dawar says that the Taliban’s reign has destroyed their society in every respect. Music was a source of peace and tranquility for the people of NW, especially folk music, but militancy washed away all that was good about our region.

Tariq Khan Dawar, a graduate from the Peshawar University, recollects with pain when every nook and corner of the Mirali Bazar would reverberate with music. He further added that the time before the arrival of the Taliban was far better.

“We used to frequently arrange open air music concerts. Everyone was allowed to participate and dance on the beat of the drum,” recalled Tariq. He added that drum locally called Dhol has cultural value to it and is considered an important musical instrument.

However, there are many who consider Taliban’s argument against music right. Muhammad Sayed a resident from NW believes that music is totally haram, (forbidden) in Islam and says it is good to put an end to the culture of music and poetry.

“We are Muslims and Islam guides us against getting involved in anything that could absorb a person completely into its fold, music does that exactly,” Muhammad added.

Sayed Ahmad 75, a resident of NW carries a different perspective about music.

“Music is not only a source of enjoyment rather it inspires love, togetherness and closeness. When people sit together to listen music, they tend to forget their differences on the beat of the drum and in the echo of the singer’s voice.

If militancy has eliminated the centuries-old tradition of folk music from NW and other tribal areas of Fata, then people like Abdur Rehman Derpa Khel have endeavored to keep music alive for the sake of all those who have sacrificed their lives for music.

“About 20 singers from NW have abandoned music or have started singing Naat Sharif,(Hymns)to keep themselves connected to singing,” said Derpa Khel.

“Music is in our blood and we cannot quit it on the orders of the Taliban or anybody else,” said a local youth from NW, requesting anonymity due to security reasons.

When the people of NW say they will never let the music die, it shows their resolve to fight the odds and keep the ties that bind.

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