Symphonies of the city

January 15, 2023

Peshawar will never succumb to cultural silence as long as the youth keep alive the spirit of volunteerism.

Symphonies of the city


eshawar has long been a hub of cultural activities. It was known for its refined taste in arts, music and poetry before a wave of terrorism engulfed it.

Now, the local youth, under the auspices of various institutions, are working for the revival of traditional music. They are promoting regional artists by encouraging them to adopt contemporary practices and rhythmical expressions.

There are at least three institutes in Peshawar working on the revival of folk music. It is worth noting that the trends embraced by the city have a bearing on the music scene of the rest of the province.

The School of Funkaar, launched by a group of music aficionados, has been instrumental in providing folk singers with a platform to perform. The School of Funkar welcomed its eleventh season over the New Year celebrations. A large number of artists, composers and music-buffs attended the event.

The event was organised to encourage folk artists, musicians and performers who find the mainstream media inaccessible.

A state-of-the-art facility has also been set up in Peshawar for budding musicians to display their talents using a fusion of conventional and modern music gadgets. The new facility encourages budding folk artists as well as senior music maestros to contribute to the cause of promoting culture.

The School of Funkaar is an initiative by a youth group to uplift the emerging artists, musicians and vocalists and combat violent extremism through folk music. Preserving conventional symphonies alongside emerging talent is the main theme of the community initiative.

Nauman Alizai, the founder of the startup, tells The News on Sunday that after graduation in computer science from IMsciences, Peshawar he and his colleague Sharoon Bhatti planned a community initiative. “We sought donations to make it a success,” he said. “Now we’re entering the 11th season,” he beamed.

Yamsa Noor, a rising young female rock music star in Peshawar says the city is providing space for talent. “We have faced no threats. Instead, we have seen exemplary cooperation. Volunteers from all over the city gathered to support the cause of promoting local music,” she concludes.

Gulwareen Bacha, another emerging singer, says that the youth of the historic city are determined to keep its musical traditions alive.

“At first, the response was lukewarm but soon the local musicians and citizens warmed up to the idea,” said Alizai. “Our online index rose significantly owing to our quality and substance.” he remarks.

Since its launch in August last year, the number of artists and vocalists it has engaged has grown. Season 2 attracted many emerging performers including Bilawal Sayed, Gulwareen Bacha, Sajjad Khan, Yumsa Noor, Sitara Younas, Obaid Khan and Qazi Saqib.

“We paid homage to all local music genres from pop, light ghazal, instrumental, folk-modern to classical and qawwali with the conventional orchestra as well as modern electronic music in the new season,” says Alizai. He says their mission is to keep the symphonies of the city alive.

“Many budding artists lack facilities to market their music. They also find access mainstream media hard to come by,” he explains. “School of Funkaar offers such music enthusiasts an opportunity to benefit from a free studio facility and come up with new ideas,” he says.

The second institute is Angaze Music Production. It is run under the auspices of Bacha Khan Trust. The institute recently appointed popular young folk artist Rashid Ahmad Khan, who has recently completed a doctoral thesis at Peshawar University on Pashto folk music.

Talking to TNS, Khan says that he is working for the cause of folk music by promoting artists of the militancy-plagued province. “I plan on converting the AMP into a school of music where eager learners will be taught the basics of folk music,” he says. “We will also teach the significance and background of each genre,” he says.

Rashid Ahmad Khan, who also heads the Hunari Welfare Society, has vowed to engage veteran musicians and singers including a few Afghan immigrants at the proposed music school. “A few Afghan refugees - experts in folk music, who have already served at a music school in Kabul, will be employed at the school so that the students can learn the basics of classical and modern music with rhythms and traditional themes of Pashto folk music,” he says.

The third institute is Mafkoora. It has long been working for reviving art, music and literary traditions.

Hayat Roghani, its CEO, tells TNS his organisation has been working for improving six disciplines along scientific lines. Folk music and dance are one of those. The others included live theatrical performances, painting and sculpture. “Both in-person and online coaching classes are available for young boys and girls,” says Roghani.

Amna Rasheed, a student at Mafkoora tells TNS, “I am not learning music to make it a career. I believe it is important for one’s own education.

“The objective is to encourage resistance against extremism through art and culture. Our music is drenched in a non-violence ethos,” remarks Roghani.

Peshawar will never succumb to cultural silence as long as the youth keep alive its spirit of volunteerism.

The writer is a Peshawar-based journalist. He mostly writes on art, culture, education, youth and minorities. He tweets @Shinwar-9

Symphonies of the city