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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa female singers re-emerge

More women are defying militant threats to perform

By Javed Aziz Khan


PESHAWAR – Once silenced by Taliban threats, female singers have again found their voice in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

The leader of the resurgence is Ghazala Javed, whose rise to stardom has lured other women into the KP music industry.

“Ghazala really filled the vacuum of good Pashtu singers,” said Musarrat Mohmand, a Pashtu singer in her mid-20s. “I was also fond of music. That is why I opted to sing despite social barriers, militant threats and restrictions from family. … I have to continue for my love for music as well as to financially support my family.”

Urooj, Musarrat’s younger sister, is following Musarrat’s footsteps, saying Musarrat’s popularity inspired her to sing. “I would definitely select standard lyrics, music and composition to gain durable popularity among the fans,” Urooj told Central Asia Online.

Even Afghan women — including Pashtu singer Sapna Tahir and Naghma — have built a Pakistani fan base with their melodious voices.

Swat has proven to be the most fertile region, producing almost half of the singers, musicians and dancers of KP.

“Swat has produced many legends not only in singing but in acting, composing and other fields related to showbiz,” said Mudassir Zaman, a music lover and singer who hosts various television and radio shows.

Famed Swati performers include Bakht Zameena — a popular singer in Afghanistan purportedly killed by militants — and Rahim Shah, who sings for Indian films. Others are Karan Khan, Ghazala Javed, Shaz Khan, Musarrat and Urooj.

The emperors of Swat promoted music, helping breed a love of the art, Mudassir said.

New Pashtu TV channels and radio stations have opened the door for a number of new singers, both male and female, he added.

Emerging singers are helping their community recover from years of terrorist intimidation. Pashtu music nose-dived when militants shot Shabana, a popular dancer and singer from Swat Valley, and displayed her corpse in “Slaughter Square,” now called Farooq Shaheed Square, to convey the message that music was prohibited in the region. That was the breaking point for many Swat performers, who left the region.

But “the situation in Swat is normal now. Almost all the singers and their families who had migrated to other places have returned home,” Qazi Jamilur Rahman, the police chief of Malakand division, told Central Asia Online. “They are playing music and holding functions as they were doing before the militancy in the area.”

But the revival of Pashtu music is not without its problems.

Ihtishamul Haq Toru, president of the Cultural Journalists and Artists’ Association of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, criticised substandard songs and low quality CDs — some even put out by non-Pashtuns.

“Some Pashtu TV stations and cheap CDs played a key role in ruining the Pashtu music industry. We need to take collective measures to restore the old glory of Pashtu songs,” said Toru, who wants to establish a musical academy.

The government, promoters and others concerned by substandard music, poetry and dances need to preserve the integrity of Pashtu music, Nisar Mahmood, a senior journalist covering music and cultural events for The News, said. “We lack the quality music of the old days, when classical music would sweeten the environment,” Nisar said.

But the biggest threat to music was and remains the militancy.

“Terrorism has destroyed a number of music shops as well as our musical assets,” said Abaseen Yousafzai, chairman of the Pashtu Department of Islamia College University. “It is the duty of the culture department and other government offices to preserve music so that it remains in the same shape for our coming generations.”

He praised all singers who withstood Taliban threats to keep the art alive.

Women singers still face risk, even with the Taliban out of power. Some families do not let their female members sing professionally.

One tragic case is Ayman Udas, a budding Pashtu singer and poet, who was shot to death — allegedly by her brothers, who subsequently fled —in Peshawar last year. Some said it was because her family opposed her singing.

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Reader Comments

  • But Ghazala Javed is dead! How interesting! Ha ha ha! Write a true story, not a false one!

    September 30, 2014 @ 06:09:48PM راسپی
  • Khyber

    January 22, 2014 @ 12:01:33PM عیس خان
  • Oh God! Save us from this dumb, murderer Wahhabism. My fellow Afghan countrymen! killing the Wahhabi Talibans is essential.

    November 1, 2013 @ 01:11:17PM احمدشاه
  • Unfortunately, Ghazale Javid has been murdered and became a martyr. Ghazale Javid was the symbol of women music in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the extremists and Taliban, as well as the cruel people could not tolerate. The Ignorant and backward Taliban, who truly belong to the mid-evil times, can be blamed for her martyrdom. Yes, her voice and her memory and art will last forever, and will attract the hearts of people. She will never die! Those who are against art, culture and human values, are the dead ones! Ghazale Javid's memory will last forever!

    June 19, 2012 @ 12:06:40AM رامین
  • Art is a part of life. It can not be separated from the whole. It needs some facilities to be expanded. These artists are the ones who expand and develop these values. Ghazala is one of the artists who expands the art. She has both the beauty and the voice to grow the art. I hope Ghazala will continue her journey in this path and do not withdraw. Sind.

    February 26, 2012 @ 11:02:55PM خان محمد(سیند)
  • Again, the commentators are raving about burqa and hijab! The woman is a person, and even more so in no way inferior to a man! If a woman is innocent and modest, she does not need it all! And if someone cannot see a woman without lustful thoughts, so get rid of these lustful organs (eyes, for instance!). Thank God, there are people like Gazala, people who are victims and inspiration for the living, who develop talent given to them by God and develop the country's general culture. Song is the soul of the country! Pakistan is full of talent, do not bury it!

    December 2, 2011 @ 02:12:00PM М А
  • Ghazala is a very good artist.She is becomming popular among young generation.But I like Farzana Naz With her excilent vocal cord.She is getting maximum marks in between her colligues.

    November 29, 2011 @ 01:11:00PM Dr.Inayat Miankhel
  • she is american actor

    November 26, 2011 @ 09:11:00AM rashid baloch
  • Alas

    August 24, 2011 @ 07:08:00PM shafiq ahmed
  • Hi. I’m Fardin from old Herat province. Dear Ghazaleh is a competent artist. Although she is young, she has increased her fans in Afghan society. Thanks!

    July 29, 2011 @ 02:07:00PM فردین خان
  • I think that its not good that she come back, its not the matter of proud and she can\'t be proud on her self because she is not doing good and its the matter of shame that a muslim lady is doing like this or like western people means singing on stage or showing herself to others. So its my advice that go back and adopt your own culture and be Pashtun not any one else. Make happy your husband not others. Obey the orders of Almighty ALLAH, inshallah ALLAH will forgive you and we will also pray for you.

    May 16, 2011 @ 03:05:00PM Abdul Mutlib
  • I send my greetings to you.

    May 9, 2011 @ 12:05:00PM سیرولی زاده
  • What will do the Govt for safety of Artists? because rulers are living in Jails like palaces. They are collecting easy loads.

    April 15, 2011 @ 05:04:00AM Altaf Suri
  • pashto poetry is a true source of spiritual satisfaction if and only if materials and its cultural way of presentation are taken into account.Beauty of thoughts and faces is our ancestral asset, but the problem with us is unsuitable mode of singers presentation, being not serious about their cultural dress and figure.

    April 11, 2011 @ 01:04:00AM irfan ali

    March 3, 2011 @ 12:03:00AM amirkhanburki
  • I become so happy that Ghazaleh Javid came back to the world of music. The rumor was that Ghazaleh got married and taken distance from the music world, which made her fans so sad. Dear Ghazaleh, welcome back to the world of music.

    January 11, 2011 @ 01:01:00AM Shafiqullah
  • I have to agree with Zeeshan. I don\'t have a problem with women singers, but we should appreciate their songs through their vocal talent. At the end of the day, we still are Muslims. Nowadays when sex sells, it is easy for entertainment to revolve around lust and it is becoming more so with Pashto music unfortunately.

    January 3, 2011 @ 05:01:00AM Janana
  • sorry sir ,,, its not good,,, gazala back to music field,,,

    December 29, 2010 @ 11:12:00PM irfan
  • When in a country like Afghanistan women are beginning to speak publicly, especially to sing and dance - this is a significant indicator of stabilization, revitalization of society. It is a pity that this is the first time I hear about these singers of Afghanistan. The fate of some of them (especially the victims) would be a good basis for writing movie scripts or books.

    December 28, 2010 @ 10:12:00PM ASN
  • The re-opening of Nishtar Hall is good news. Now the Pashtun artists will get a chance to highlight our cultural activities.

    November 21, 2010 @ 10:11:00AM mian tariq naseem kaka khil
  • hi how r u?

    November 17, 2010 @ 09:11:00AM imran khan
  • Sorry Friends.... I am not agree with your comments. Its not Good for Islamic woman to show off, what she shouldn\'t do. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is considered as part of country where true activities of Islam are followed. They are living acording to preachings of Islam. So the woman doing deeds against preachings of Islam, must be ashamed of it... I will request Females of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, plz do not adopt western culture, ba what you are. Be proud of it. Women in Abaya or Veil is much better than a western woman having short clothes. THANKS...

    November 10, 2010 @ 07:11:00AM Zeeshan
  • hi sorry

    November 4, 2010 @ 09:11:00AM zafar ali
  • ghazala is the most bueatiful and the top singer in poshto.and it is a good news that ghazala come back

    October 25, 2010 @ 03:10:00AM imran khan
  • Ghazaleh Javeed is a very good and beautiful woman. I love her voice. She is also very pretty. I wish one day I will be introduced to Ghazaleh and tell her, “I love you!”. I hope that I would watch her on that day from short distance.

    October 24, 2010 @ 11:10:00PM اجمل اسلمی
  • fully agree with the contents of the article.Pashto music has suffered because of militancy/talibanisation in society.However with the recent success of govt and people against militancy the society is now on its track with resumption of cultural activities.pashtuns basically being democrtic , art-loving have been subjected to militancy and narrow ideology.All this has effected sine 80,s. We hope that this outside influence will not change their centuries old traditions inclding love for art and culture.the bamyan statues were kept safe and intact for centuries until this recent foreign influence.

    October 20, 2010 @ 05:10:00PM nasir
  • you are so nice and a pretty voies

    October 15, 2010 @ 06:10:00AM danish
  • iam a social worker of pakistan people party what geo is telecasting for the viewers that show one side. only hamid mir saheb program is so rine.during heavy flood in country geo ignore the sindh and the peoples of sindh province.

    October 15, 2010 @ 12:10:00AM ibrahim
  • This is either a very old story posted now or the reporter doesn\'t know that Ghazala Javed has left singing after getting married. She has got married to a wealthy man and now is a house wife. Ghazala Javed can in no way be called the leader of musical resurgence after she has faded away to ablivion and quitting the profession. I\'m aastonished to read about the emperor of Swat. Has Swat been an empire? Never. Were there any emperors of Swat? No. Never.

    October 12, 2010 @ 03:10:00AM Ihtisham
  • wow, that\'s good Ghazala back to a singing stage, i am fond of Ghazal voice. sleep with her song all the time.

    October 6, 2010 @ 06:10:00AM mirza
  • I like Geo News very much.

    October 3, 2010 @ 02:10:00PM noorhabib
  • I fully agree with the contents of the article.Pashto music has suffered because of militancy/talibanisation in society.However with the recent success of govt and people against militancy the society is now on its track with resumption of cultural activities.pashtuns basically being democrtic , art-loving have been subjected to militancy and narrow ideology.All this has effected sine 80,s. We hope that this outside influence will not change their centuries old traditions inclding love for art and culture.the bamyan statues were kept safe and intact for centuries until this recent foreign influence.

    October 3, 2010 @ 06:10:00AM sajjad khan
  • Nice picture and nice article. I guess these women are doing a good job and Ghazala should return to the field of music as tens of thousands of her listeners are missing her. Javed Sb is doing a good job here

    October 3, 2010 @ 06:10:00AM Iman Khan