By Muhammad Karim
Famous anthropologist Edward B. Taylor in his book Primitive Culture defines culture as the complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. This broad definition encompasses music as a minute entity of culture under the category of art.
Recently, a debate emerged on social media regarding the unnecessary innovation or adaptation of foreign instruments and tunes in the traditional vocal and instrumental music of Chitral. While on the battle of preserving traditional music of the region our scholars and thinkers propagate a very dangerous misunderstanding apart from sweeping under the carpet many genuine concerns in this aspect of life. Their concern of the whole culture of Chitral being under threat just because of some Pushto-mixed Chitrali songs being produced by the young artists propagates the sweeping generalization that music is the whole culture in this part of the world. Perhaps it’s this generalization that has created the mindset which considers knowingly or unknowingly music as the whollysolly culture of our region. We can see practical manifestation of this mindset in the so called cultural shows frequently arranged in different cities across the country with dhol and dance as the sole activity.
The important thing which should be understood is music isn’t our culture it’s an entity of our culture through which we express the emotional part of our life. Having said that we can come to the second part of it, whether to innovate or not innovate music.
Before moving forward with this part we should agree on one general principle, and that is, are we against innovation in all part of life? Or our reluctance is for music only? If by any means our angst is against innovation in all walks of life then it makes some sense to ban it for music, but as we all know it, that it would not be a favorable option or an option at all to move back to the pastoral age.
So we don’t resist and we should not resist what the development of science and technology and the advancement of human consciousness has to offer us. Music is linked with us and with the material environment in which we live. It definitely receives new dimensions with the adaptation of new lifestyle. The ideas, imaginations and manifestations of thoughts get new form with the advancement of material and intellectual culture. We can’t expect a lyrist of the present day to compose something like: Daqo Xan garnish bikogoi sor sasiri pong namuti nantatan te kelawe. Not because he/she can’t compose something like that but because this would not be a proper manifestation (at least in the context of Chitral) of the material culture in which we live today.
We should definitely discourage the outside in innovation and promote the inside out one in the field, but that is only possible when we give music the real respect and importance it deserves leaving aside the deep rooted contempt and dislike that we held towards it and carrying along for so long. We need to support the ones who genuinely working hard to make a career out of it. We need to support young people who are struggling to make something out of passion. Gone are the days when music was done as a part time hobby. In the present time “no one is ready to play for just a dinner and smoke”, as one the young artist has put it beautifully.
By Muhammad Karim