In keeping with the tradition of Norwegian envoys promoting Pakistan’s cultural heritage, the Ambassador of Norway, Cecilie Landsverk organised a musical evening at her residence featuring Akhtar Channal Zahri.
The event was attended by foreign nationals and Pakistanis in equal number and was a pleasant interaction between both, the song and music being a means of bonding over a common liking that needs no words, but is understood by everyone no matter the language used in its rendering. The vocalist was accompanied by Khalid Ahmed on the banjo, which has been modified by the Balochis to suit their musical traditions and Mohammed Zahid and Zafar Ali both on the ‘dholak’. Addressing the gathering the hostess said she was happy for Akhtar to perform again since she thought, he was a great artiste with a unique style of singing. Mentioning that he had performed in Norway to enthusiastic audiences, she hoped her guests would enjoy the evening.
Dressed in his distinctive Balochi outfit, Akhtar, delighted with his repertoire of songs, twirling to the music now and again during the break between verses, while two of his group, Sajjad Ahmed and Abdul Haq danced throughout to the beat of the music. While both men were good Abdul’s moves would surely be the envy of any dancer as he has the style from, Makran, that was so original and popular some years ago but has been suppressed because of dance being frowned upon by certain groups.
In 1964, Akhtar Chanal started taking formal singing lessons from an ‘ustaad’. In 1973 he brought regional folk to national attention after he was discovered by the Balochi Radio Station and in 1974 Chanal’s music became popular nationwide when his song ‘Deer Deer’ was first aired live on TV. Since then he has travelled all over the world for tours. In 1998 he was awarded the Pride of Performance.
He gained added recognition when he sang his well-known song, ‘dana pay dana,’ recorded with traditional and modern instruments, on Coke Studio. Akhtar Chanal’s distinctive voice carries with it the stories of his birthplace — the fields of Balochistan where young shepherds are raised to the tunes of regional folk songs while they work. “Where I come from, when a child is born, the only two things he knows how to do are sing and cry - music is a part of us from the very beginning.” says the folk singer. “The songs I hummed as a youngster watching my sheep are embedded in my memory.”
Zahri believes that every animal, field, flower and blade of grass can feel the positive energy of music.