Volume - 1 : Issue - 2

Published : Dec.2001 - Feb. 2002

Group : Music & Arts


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By Sreekanth R

Music constitutes a very integral part of Sindh’s culture. Music of Sindh has its distinctive style, and traces of their patterns have been found in music of other parts of the world too. The study of music and musical instruments of this land has helped archaeologists and historians affirm facts about cultural lineages of  various countries.

It is agreed upon by common consent that the music that originated from Indus valley is the most primitive form of any kind of music and this effectively speaks about it being an offshoot of its Indian counterpart. But certain revelations, which are still to be confirmed scientifically have a different story to tell.

Interestingly, music in Sindh, once upon a time was considered to be for the elitist and was confined to the ministerial class. But the introduction of simplistic renditions called Kafi broke the existing boundaries and are considered to be the most innovative piece of work that went towards the popularization of music of this land.

Exploring Sound facts – Music as anthropological evidence

Whether the evidences reflected through music of a land gave insights into the biographical history of the place or has proven evidences of historical data provided the basis for tracing the roots of evolution of music still remains a chicken and egg story. But archives of source materials have various instances of the former. A brief overview.

ANTONIO IGLESIAS – Spanish gypsy still sings songs that have influences of Sindhi folk tunes.

When nations attain high-level civilizations, they think of luxuries. It is presumed that dancing is the overall effect of music on mind, manifesting itself in the visible motion of the body. Music and dance are considered to be a luxury, secondary needs and a poverty-stricken civilization cannot just afford or even imagine the luxuries of life. Archaeological evidences from the region of Mohen-jo-daro civilization and the excavation of the dancing deity bear testimony to the fact that Sindhi culture is not only ancient but also advanced enough to have the element of dynamism in it.

Just as the above examinations have proved the existence of a well developed civilization in Sindh, a similarity between a few musical instruments of Sindh, Baluschistan, Punjab and those of the Middle East have helped historians trace the existence of commercial and cultural contacts between the countries.

Another interesting aspect that has evolved out of the investigation of music is the strengthening of the fact that clay had been the time-honoured raw material of the region. Indication of this has come to light with the excavation of the borrindo. This simplistic musical instrument of primitive times is an ‘earthen ball’ with three holes and is based on three musical notes. The clay models of the instrument unearthed from the Sindh region along with a few other works of pottery have helped strengthen the factual evidence of clay being the prime raw material of ancient Sindh.

But the most startling anthropological discoveries of ancestral lineages have been fortified by the examination of music of Sindh, Arab and Spanish regions. There is a striking similarity in the music of these lands, and speculation is rife over the issue of who influenced whom. But historians were sure that such influences in music could not be accidental and browsing through the pages of ancient history and through the study of musical instruments of the region went on to infer that the Sindhian music was the influencer. It is believed by common consent that the Lorees, the traditional musicians of Sindh, when faced with the tyranny of a Brahmin missionary Chachha started migrating to the European continent, via the Middle East and alogn with them travelled the music of Sindh. The lineage is witnessed in present days too in the renditions of the gypsies of Spain (the kins of Lorees are the present day gypsies), which exhibits chords of similarity to traditional Sindhi music. (See article ‘Sindhi musics’ Spanish Sonata’ in inaugural issue of Sindhishaan).

There might be many more cases when music has been an indicator to track historical facts and chances are that it might help in making many more historical inferences in the near future.



On the one hand are proven evidences that trace Sindhi music to be a part of the Indian heritage system, and on the other hand are experimental findings that might end up suggesting them off the tracks!

The influence of geographical contiguity is omnipresent in music too, more so because of the fact that contiguous countries share commonalities in their phonetic system and other peculiarities. Orientalists like Colonel Todd and others are of the view that the Indian octave was invented on the banks of the Indus, and Sindhi music has influences of the same. Besides this Sindhi language has traces of the Dravidian phonetic system too and Sindhi like Sanskrit has more vowels and therefore considered to be particularly adapted to music. Influences of Gujarati, Marwari, Khathiawari and Bohri music can be traced in the music of Sindh, like Sur Khambat, which has its origin in Gujarat and Sur Sorath which is traced to have sprung up from Khathiawar. While all these evidences point towards the fact the Sindhi music is an offshoot of traditional Indian music, experimental findings have a different record to play.

Interestingly, researchers have discovered a resounding significance of Sindhi music with Greek music. While the Indian classical music is based on 22 surs (intervals), Greek music, which is adapted from Egyptian music has 24 intervals. The differential octaves in the two types of music are in Re and Dha, where the Greek have a leap more than their Indian counterpart. And experiment of Sindh Kafi (a form of music made famous by Shah Abdul Latif) played with the Indian Thumri revealed that there are 24 intervals akin to Greek Eastern music. Incidentally a line or verse of Duha (Sindhi chant music with an influence of the Vedas) too has 24 instances. Researchers are known to be attempting to come to a conclusion on this by conducting scientific tests in well-equipped laboratories.

Another interesting finding furthers the fact about the lineage of Sindhi music and Greek music, has been made by Dr. Nabi Bux Baloch. His research has led to the finding that Shah Abdul Latif made his new Tamboora a five-stringed instrument, which appears to suggest that it was made to make up the deficiencies of two semitones in the Sindhian octave.

Now all these findings are yet to be verified scientifically, and if proven right would put to reat the age-old theory that Sindhi music is an offshoot of Indian heritage music.


MUFFLED MUSIC – Advent of Kafi

Shah Abdul Latif’s famous works of poetry, Kafi, have transcended the boundaries of time and are still recited by many a Sindhi. Behind this genre of work lies the untold story of the liberation of music.

It is said that ancient music in its raw form, termed as folk music, underwent transformation through innovations in styles and patterns done by a genre of musicians and took a form that was polished and refined. This form of music, called classical music formed the scientific basis for music of any land. Introspection into the historical archives reveal the transformation of folk music in various countries to their respective classical formats, but Sindhi music remained in the state of folk music and made no progress towards the formation of its classical from. Music from Sindh is believed to be bereft of Taranas, Khayals, Dhrupads and Natakas.

Music in a particular era of ancient Sindh was discouraged and denounced as sacrilegious by Mulla, Akhund and Kazi. The tunes were strictly confined to the ministerial class. Coupled to this  was the fact that the history of Sindh has been through turbulent times and the constant invasions by foreigners vastly affected the original form of music.

Out of thes omissions and commissions was born a new musical form – Sindhi Kafi. This form of music was based on a soothing rhythm and is halfway between classical and light music for it was a product of Thappa, Khayal and Thumri. It was lively and well adapted to dancing and its simple melodies were sure to keep the audience enraptured. Kafi was steadily gaining acceptance amongst the masses of Sindh, but the credit for popularization of Kafi goes to Shah Abdul Latif. He wrested the music from the ministerial calss and gave it to his people as a pth leading to religion. Through his simplistic poetries and standardization of various ragas, Shah Abdul Latif successfully accomplished the task of reaching out the rich music of Sindh to the masses and the renditions of Kafi till date is proof enough that this form of music has been pivotal in the revival of Sindhi music, which otherwise would have remained muffled in the confines of the ministerial facades of earlier times.