Resistance through music

March 26, 2023

How some friends managed to set up an initiative to bring fine arts back to the society?

Resistance  through music


afkoora, a not-for-profit organisation, was set up in Peshawar in early 2020 by 12 likeminded people with degrees in literature, history, philosophy, fine arts, comparative religions and sociology. The stated objective was to educate the Pashtun youth and purge the society of intolerance and philistinism.

Mafkoora advocates critical thinking and a pragmatic approach to social-constructs attached to the role of woman in the society. The group chose to work on three main areas – education, literature and fine arts. It met early success, attracting many students, who volunteered support. Today Mafkoora has turned into a development and research centre.

Hayat Roghani, the Mafkoora chief executive officer, tells The News on Sunday that teaching the basics of music was an important part of their plan. Following an initial workshop, a highly qualified music teacher, Prof AR Anwar, was asked to design weekly lessons for music classes. Prof Anwar has over 50 years of experience in music composition and teaching, says Roghani.

Organic Music was launched recently with an objective to resist social evils through music. Training is now being imparted to 15 boys and girls, twice a week.

Gulalai, 14, says: “I am not learning music to pursue a career. I have loved singing and playing musical instruments since childhood. Learning music is my passion. What could be better than getting to learn from an ustad?”

Prof Anwar says teaching music gives him great joy. He adds that music helps young people grow up into calmer human beings.

Militancy and extremism managed to penetrate the society because of lack of opportunities, among other issues. This led to intolerance and narrow-mindedness and the society as a whole plunged into religious bigotry, says Anwar.

Aminullah Kundi, a rights activist associated with Mafkoora, says the organisation believes in resisting extremism through arts. For this purpose, he says, his colleagues have developed the OM that provides a promising learning environment for potential musicians and vocalists to create, compose and record music to resist violence and oppression.

Prof Anwar, the music academy director, says that such academies can contribute to transforming the society.

“Pashto music has lost more than 60 traditional instruments over the recent decades. Three types of traditional musical instruments – percussion, wind and string – have survived. Today the Pashto orchestra relies mostly on modern electric instruments,” he adds.

“If the music academy is supported by music lovers, local music will flourish and eventually receive global recognition,” he says.

Roghani says that other pursuits of Mafkoora include an art gallery, a theatre, a campaign for promoting mother languages, girls’ education, study circles, debates and research studies on comparative religions and interfaith relations.

Twice a week, lessons are given in the popular local dance, Attan, which involves moving in a circle to the beat of drum. Khattak, Waziri, Marwat and Bannuchi tribes have different dance steps to the beat of drums or claps. A trumpeter is located in the middle with audience gathered around to respond with applause and the occasional shabashy.

Wadana Khan, 16, a resident of Peshawar, says that her parents had been looking for an institute like Mafkoora, where she could learn music.

“My parents were looking for a safe place for me to learn music. Around a month ago, we found this place. I can now play the guitar and harmonium,” she says. “Ustad Anwar is like a father to me. He’s the best music teacher I have ever met,” she adds.

Shahkar Mohammadzai is a young poet and rights activist working with Mafkoora. He tells TNS that Mafkoora is working on devising a syllabus for music classes so that students can get a comprehensive knowledge of organic music with set themes, notation and rhythmical expressions.

“The revival of artistic and cultural activities in Pashtun society is the prime objective. Resisting terrorism in all its manifestations by non-violent means is our resolve,” says Roghani.

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

Resistance through music