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Pakistani Music:
Amanat Ali KhanThe music of Pakistan is probably one of the most diverse selection of music in the whole world within one country; being at the crossroads of Central Asia, Iran, the Middle East and India, Pakistan has developed a multitude of different types of music and sounds. Major influences of Pakistani music are Arabic, English, Indian, Persian and Portuguese. Pakistani genres like sufi rock and bhangra have become popular throughout the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and around the world. With the multiple influences, Pakistani music has emerged as a "fusion" of many other types of sounds together to form a distinctly Pakistani sound. Pakistani musicians now sell records not only in Pakistan but in many countries around the world. Although there are plenty of genres of Pakistani music, it can be divided under two main headings. Traditional and East meets West.

Classical music

Pakistani classical music developed in the northern Indian subcontinent in the 13th and 14th centuries AD from existing religious, folk, and theatrical performance practices which was influenced by Vedic philosophy and native Indian sounds. It was also influenced by the Persian performance practices of the Afghan Mughals. Today, classical music in Pakistan is not as popular as it once was, though it is still used in traditional settings, such as weddings, cultural gatherings etc. The main reason for the decline in popularity of classical music is due to increased globilization; the young generation in Pakistan are more influenced by the western generes such as pop, rock and hip hop, which are currently flourishing in Pakistan. However, it can be said that if Pakistani music were to be represented by a pyramid, classical music would be the base holding it up. Almost all musicians young or old are taught under classical music first, before they can go ahead and move into other types of music.

Musical instruments which are used in classical music are:

  • Sitar
  • Tabla
  • Harmonium
  • sarangi
  • Santoor

Today, many Pakistani folk and modern day music hold in one way or another, some classical element. Many modern day Pakistani musicians of ghazal, qawwali and folk musicians are still trained in subcontinent classical music; these types of musicians often belong to a gharana.

One of the prominent gharana's in Pakistan is the Patiala gharana. Some of the most popular musicians that belonged to these groups were:

  • Ustad Amanat Ali Khan
  • Ustad Bade Fateh Ali Khan
  • Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan

Other established gharanas (and their main exponents)include the Kirana (Malika-e-Mausiqui Roshan Ara Begum), Gwalior ( Ustad Ghulam Hassan Shaggan), Talwandi (Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan), Agra (Ustad Asad Ali Khan), and Qawwal Bacchon ka Gharana (Ustad Chotte Ghulam Ali Khan)

Ghazal music

Ghazal is the name of a poetic form, but musically "Ghazal Gayaki" refers to the form of music in which Ustad Bade Ali Khana poem is sung. Ghazal Gayaki is often termed semi-classical music. Most Ghazal singers are trained in classical music and sing in either Khyal or Thumri. Mehdi Hassan Khan Sahib was considered the greatest Ghazal singer in South Asia and was globally known for his devotion to ghazal music. Some of the most famous Pakistani Ghazal singers are:

  • Amanat Ali
  • Ghulam Ali
  • Iqbal Bano
  • Munni Begum
  • Mehdi Hassan
  • Farida Khanum
  • Nayyera Noor
  • Abida Parveen
  • Malika Pukhraj
  • Gulshan Aara Sayyed
  • Tahira Syed

Qawwali music

One of the most dynamic and popular types of Pakistani music is qawwali, which has been internationally popularized by stars like the Sabri Brothers, Aziz Mian and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Qawwali, is a form of Sufi music and exists in multiple forms. It is widespread throughout Pakistan and Northern India.

Qawwali refers to both the performance and the genre of music. Qawwals typically consist of a lead vocalist, two back-up vocalists and any number of percussionists. Qawwalis are traditionally led by a sheikh and are meant to help the audience realize the mystical ideals of Sufism and Islam. Amir Khusrau is said to have invented qawwali in the 13th century; the legendary poet and composer is also said to have invented the tabla and sitar. The idea of music (sama) inspiring an understanding and love for the divine and communication with spiritual guides is known from at least the 9th century. Orthodox Muslims sometimes criticize qawwali for its erotic imagery and sometimes frank sensuality.

Qawwali consists of three components:

  • Rhythm - traditionally played on the dholak
  • Melody - melodic line of the vocals
  • Pitch - which is reinforced on harmonium

Poetic verses are usually mixed with a chorus and instrumental passages. Traditional languages used include:

  • Urdu - Qawwali mainly sung in Urdu
  • Persian
  • Arabic
  • Braj Basha - ancient form of Sanskrit
  • Punjabi

Farida KhanumSome of the most popular Pakistani Qawwali singers/groups are:

  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Late)
  • Aziz Mian
  • Sabri Brothers
  • Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali Group

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a huge legend, not just physically, but in his stature, he was adored by millions of fans worldwide. Unlike many singers of today, he was admired purely on his amazing vocal skills and also the passion and spirituality he displayed in his amazing improvisations. He was not afraid to mix the sacred with the profane, the popular with the niche, and a meeting of the East with the West, which has lead to his popularity and longevity. Khan died in 1997 aged just 49. His legacy shall not be forgotten. Many of his followers who wished to take the art forward however none till this day have been able to even come close to what he did. His collaborations with Michael Brook, a Canadian record producer, resulted in the unexpected hit of "Mustt Mustt", which was remixed by Massive Attack and popularized by its use in a Coca-Cola television commercial.

Nusrat's compositions have also been used in films such as:

  • Last Temptation of Christ
  • Natural Born Killers
  • Dead Man Walking

Folk music

Folk music has been influential on classical music, which is viewed as a higher art form. In Pakistan, each province has its own variation of popular folk music. The arrival of western sounds, also weakened folk music's popularity as it did classical music. Well known Pakistani folk artists include:

  • Reshma
  • Atta Ullah Khan Essa Khailvi
  • Shaukat Ali
  • Pathane Khan
  • Alam Lohar

Pakistani pop singers such as Abrar ul Haq, Rahim Shah and Jawad Ahmed have been known to mix their performances with traditional folk music. The most popular artist to be known for mixing his music with folk and classicial types was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a world-renowned Pakistani qawwali and folk artist.