November Issue 2009
Ring in the Old
Karachi swayed to the melodies of the Manganhaar folk songs at a festival organised by the Folklore Society of Pakistan at the Karachi Arts Council on October 2.
The colourful gala was actually a contest between young Marwari-speaking students of the Manganhaar community from various baithaks in Umer Kot, Rohri, Chachro, Mithi and Hyderabad.
The Folklore Society was set up in 1989 with the objective of promoting and preserving folk art and artists while using indigenous culture as a vehicle for social change.
Subsequently, the society contacted some of the key ustads of the Manganhaar community and motivated them to pass on this rich heritage to their young disciples. The society promised them exposure to mainstream audiences and the media by organising an annual contest of the best students from all the key baithaks.
Amazingly this contest has created a genuine interest among both the ustads and students, who had earlier focused their energies on belting out Bollywood numbers to earn their livelihood. Folklore Society Director Yasser Noman informed the audiences that over the last six years there has been a phenomenal increase in the number of children in these learning centres.
A jury, comprising the well-known music critic Sarwat Ali, who also heads NCA’s music department, Hanif Lashari, a senior Marwari musician, and music critic and author S.M. Shahid, awarded prizes to Farooq and Sher Khan (Umerkot/Chachro Baithak) and Rehman Ali (Rohri Baithak).
The Manganhaar community in Pakistan has been stigmatised because of their hereditary association with the performing arts so much so that they consider their own heritage and cultural practices as being of no value and speak Sindhi among themselves rather than their own language, Marwari. And in their attempt to assimilate, they report incorrect ethnicity and mother tongue in the census.
But now, through the efforts of the Folklore Society of Pakistan, their music is gaining attention and creating an audience for folk music. The society has produced several DVDs and audio albums of these artists that are available at Radio City and through the Thar Production House.