03 March, 2007

Zarsanga - Songs of the Pashtu

"Music is the healing force of the universe" - Albert Ayler

download Zarsanga - Songs Of The Pashtu (mp3 - 76 mb)

The Durand Line, drawn in 1893 to buffer British colonial interests in India from Russia, arbitrarily divided historic Pashtun lands along the modern Afghanistan-Pakistan border, in the process dividing families & continuing today to be a source of conflict, tension, and suffering. Echoing the US' strategy of dealing with the problems of an unjust artificial border, Pakistan's President Musharraf has proposed building a "fence" as the euphemism goes. As the US plans to ratchet up operations on either side of the 'border,' more civilians are effectively condemned to die.

Here, then, are some traditional Pashtu songs, arranged by the singer Zarsanga, "the Voice of the Pashtun," except for #'s 3, 6, & 9, which are arranged by Sultan Muhammad; it was recorded in Paris.

Zarsanga: vocals
Sultan Muhammad: rabâb
Shâh Wali: dholak
Sabz Ali: tablâ

1. Ro Ro Keda

2. Gula Sta de Kilie

3. Naghma Giit

4. Mata de Khaiber Lara
("'Why do you take me so very far? Do you want to lose me in the mountaintops of the Khaybar pass? You realize, don't you, that I know the way as well as you do . . . Why are you wearing me out with all of these detours' says the young girl to her lover. This song evokes the famous mountain passes between Peshâwar and Kâbul. Exceptionally, Zarsanga's vocals are accompanied by a kamâicâ, a Rajasthani stringed instrument, played by Chanan Khan.")

5. Bane Mé Dargué Dargué

6. Awami Giit

7. Tappa
("Tappa is one of the oldest poetic and sung styles in the Pashtu culture. A mixture between a singing duet and a poetic jousting match, Tappa is often a cappella and simulates a man and a woman's love words. The two people involved may also be children imitating declarations of love.")

8. Ze Darna Dubaï la Zama
("A man on the verge of emigrating speaks to his wife: "I will send you to your father's home while I'm gone working in Dubaï. Then I can bring you back more gold and jewelry!")

9. Alap Rag Behro

10. Zamung Watan Ké Baharuna
("All over the four corners of my country, springtime will not stop. Why have you gone, come back quickly, it's so beautiful!")

from the notes:


Serene, with an almost modest softness, Zarsanga is the singer of the Pasthu people. She is the voice of a people spread from the northwest of Pakistan to the southeast of Afghanistan.

The Pashtu or Pathan are an exemplary mountain people. Their territory stretches to the banks of the Indus. Before the arrival of the British, in the 18th century, there were a large number of Pahstu kingdoms and principalities that lived off the troubles between the Persian Sultans and the mongol Emperors of India.

At the foot of the mountains is Peshâwar which today has become the symbolic capitol of 15 million Pashtus, whose geographic center is between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the region called Pachûnistân or Pathânistân. Pashtu cultural influence is spread across Afghanistan and the Pashtu language, which is of Iranian origin, is spoken by more than half of the Afghani population.

Zarsanga was born 42 years ago in the mountainous village of Khause in the Bannu district. A member of the Awan clan, she was raised by her paternal aunt. Just like in the fables common to traditional music, as a young shepherdess she learned to sing and later play the tambourine while looking after her charges among the rocky cliffs. Her husband claims that he carried her off one stormy night and married her against the wishes of her parents. Mother of six children, she sings love poems in which the woman does not hesitate to express herself, rejoicing or lamenting the presence or absence of her beloved. Using modes or raga often quite similar to those of India or Rajasthan, the refrains (âstâ'i) in bass tones are interspaced with the song verses which are higher in tone (antara). Most notable, she works with the sung and poetic forms, namka'i or tappa.

She has retained the ability to retreat into the inner world from which she seems to draw her inspiration, though in 1965 she began to reach an audience much wider than that of her village. The fact that she was able to sing as a professional on the Peshâwar radio without pretention led her to be known as The Voice of the Pashtun.

Sultan Muhammad

Sultan Muhammad was born 50 years ago in Pishin, Balouchistan. He belongs to the Durrânîs, a Pashtu ethnic group which created its own dynasty in Afghanistan in 1747. His own father was a rabâb player, but he was initiated to the art at the age of 16 by Muhammad Din Salahi.

The Afghan and Pashtu rabâb is a short-necked waisted lute. The rabâb, regarded as the national instrument of Afghanistan is made in many sizes, the smaller ones being used for pashtun music.

The body and the neck are carved from a single block of mulberry wood. The lower chamber has a goatskin belly and the upper a wooden lid which extends to the fingerboard of the short, hollow neck. The curved pegbox is joined to the neck. The modern Afghani rabâb has three principal strings of nylon (formerly three double courses) usually tuned in fourths. Three or four metal drone strings and 15 sympathetic strings are tuned to the scale of the mode being played.

The art of rabâb playing rests in the stroking of the cords according to a large number of rhythmic patterns. These musical forms highlight the almost metallic brilliance of the instrument. Sultan Muhammad is accompanied by the dholak, the double-headed drum of Northwestern India and Pakistan and the tablâ of Northern India, which has just recently appeared in Pashtu music.

& from "Zarsanga - Melody Queen of Pashto," by Khaled Kheshgi:

The pencil thin, wheatish and illiterate Zarsanga is so proud of her euphonic and bewitching voice that even in her mid-fifties she challenges the young vocalists to match her in rhythmic frequency.

Belonging to a gypsy family of Tank, Zarsanga, also known as the desert queen of Pashto music, has performed in the USA, UK, Paris, Germany, Belgium, UAE, Iraq and many more countries; but still prefers to live in a tented-house, while at present she is living in a clay-made house in the suburbs of Peshawar. “I love my soil and culture as it gives the fragrance of fraternity, freedom and vanity, the 55-year old Zarsanga, wearing traditional dopata, said.

Born in a nomadic Pakhtoon family at Tank, Zalubai (jalibi in Urdu), commonly known as Zarsanga, inherited singing from her family who was wooed and taken to altar by her clan fellow Mula Jan of Serai Naurang, Bannu, in 1965. Mula Jan used to play tabla with Zarsanga’s father Tekidar. But many say that Mula Jan had eloped her, also loved by her singing partner Khan Tehsil. “Ours was a love marriage,” both admitted while sitting in the Radio Pakistan Peshawar station making rehearsal for Independence programs for Radio Pakistan.

“A person named Mustafa had heard me at a wedding ceremony in Lakki Marwat and later on introduced me to Rashid Ali Dehqan, producer in Radio Pakistan Peshawar. In the very first appearance, I won the hearts and appreciation of producers and public as well,” Zarsanga recalled. At that time Radio Station was located near Peshawar Central Jail and when she was giving audition, her reverberating voice even agitated the inmates of the nearby prison who demanded for more, an aged radio employee confirmed her claim.

From that day Zarsanga sang thousands of songs for Radio and TV and performed on stage hundreds of times.

Besides winning appreciation from public, she got many awards including Pride of Performance and Presidential Award from for her contributions. She has also been honoured abroad for her performance. “Once I was singing in an Arab country and some Arab women started dancing on my song without knowing the meaning,” she said with a slight smile and vanity.

“She is Rishama of Pashtu music,” said Laiqzadha Laiq, Radio Producer, adding that once a French woman Mrs Kia who was doing research on Pashtu language and literature here, when heard Zarsanga, was so impressed by her rumbling voice that she . . . arranged a concert of Zarsanga in Paris where she performed without musical instruments and microphone.

The Pashtu melody queen Zarsanga is known for her folk songs, desert arias, and mountainous gharhi (a type of Pashtu tapi) and has many popular songs to her credit. “Being illiterate I can not sing ghazals and thus concentrate on gharhi and folk songs which are popular among Pakhtoons that even some solemn and pious women told me that they only listen her songs publicly at their old age," Zarsanga said proudly.

Puffing a low-priced cigarette in front of her husband, Zarsanga said that once she won two packs of cigarettes by winning an informal high-pitched competition at Peshawar PTV center. She had also won an international voice competition in Germany organised by Dr Kabir Stori of Pakhtoon Social Democratic Party. Her 25-year old son Shehzada has adopted the singing profession and besides singing at hujra and stage level, has also performed on TV and radio.

Zarsanga has six sons and four daughters, two of them married. Zarsanga’s father was proud of her daughter’s singing profession but his daughter says, “my daughters have been blessed with melodious voices but I am against their singing in public." When asked why she pointed towards her husband that he also did not like it. It is against our family traditions, was the simple answer of Mula Jan.

Though not a slight change has occurred in her voice till date but the desert queen considers her this blessing as mirage in a desert, an echo in mountains and a wave in the river, saying that being a mortal-being one day she would lose this asset which is the only source of her income, therefore, she sought restoration of culture scholarship, being stopped to her [sic] like dozens of artists for the last one year by the provincial culture department.

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Blogger Stocksshah said...

Thank you for sharing such a great music. Applaud.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved to hear Zarsanga's Voice in good quality after a while. Thank You. Cheers

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