Folk musical instruments
From early times, elemental music in the Lower Indus Valley Sindh has been associated with, and inspired by the village life and its natural environment. Its roots lay in the pastoral life of the people. The village folk have since times immemorial, mused to the multiple symphonic sounds of the symphony wheel and the moving bullock cart. They have hummed to the rhythm of the Charra (bells) tied around the necks of the buffaloes, the Cherr tied in the legs of their riding camels, the Chang round the necks of their oxen and the Jhaane of the Charri and the Khirk (small iron bells) produced by the grazing herds of their goats and sheep. Till date, the multiple sounds of the hurls and Naar (the water wheels) provide a musical symphony to the Sindhi farmer while those of the travelling bullock cart to the transport workers.
With village life assuming stability, it resulted in a class of professional bards and musicians emerged out of their rural obscurity and became proponents of higher musical art. During the past few centuries the country minstrels popularly known as Mangattas, Maganhars, Barath, Charan and Bhatt have improvised instruments, invented tunes, developed and spread music throughout the country.
The musical instruments were procured from clay, hides, wild reeds, wood and different varieties of pumpkins and gourd. With the easy availability of these articles, musical instruments became easily accessible to all and the folk music was developed and widely diffused. It is therefore that almost every villager in Sindh got instinctively fond of music and would leave no stone unturned to be present in any festival of rhythm and melody. The emergence of Shah Abdul Latif (1690 1752) further helped the dissemination of the love for music among the rural population. Being truly a peoples poet, he depicted every phase of Sindhian life in his heart rending verses set to different types of classical and folk melodies. His poetic themes began to be sung by the people throughout the country to the accompaniment of either the simplest reed flute or the more complex Tamboor, which was designed by the great poet himself. The institution of music founded by Shah Abdul Latif and continued to this day at his mausoleum at the village of Bhitshah has been a permanent source of influence for the people.
A brief description of the musical instruments of Lower Indus Valley and their historical background and present popularity is given herein:
It is a simple hollow clay ball with three to four holes, one somewhat larger and the others smaller and of the same size. The Borrindo may be regarded as one of the most ancient musical instrument of the Lower Indus valley. Blowing somewhat horizontally into the larger hole produces the sound notes. Fingertips are placed on the smaller holes to regulate the notes. It is easy to play and hence its popularity among the children and the youth who sound sweet notes on it while grazing the cattle.
The more natural piece that has been used from early times to sound notes has been the horn of the animal. In Sindh region the more popular has been the horn of the wild mountain goat called Sarah (the Ibex), which was found in abundance all over the western hilly region of Kohistan. The horn is cut at the two ends, and is blown from the top end to produce bugle like notes. It has been known by various different names, the small sized one was called Singri, while the large one was called the Naad or the Nafeel.
Chang is a simple but more sophisticated sounding device made if iron. A thin elastic tuning fork with its end protruding upwards is set within an outward frame. The artist sets part of the frame within the lips, keeping the jaws somewhat open so that the hollow of he mouth serves the purpose of a sound chamber. He then vibrates the tuning device by the by the soft backward strokes of his forefinger thus creating melody to the ears. Measured strokes in a slow or quick succession and an appropriate adjustment of the tongue position within the mouth are combined to produce a variety of rhythm patterns.
During the last two decades, people have fondly taken to it and developed a special skill to play it to the accompaniment of the vocal and instrumental music. At present Dhingano Khan Khoso and Abdul Karim Baloch play Chang from the Hyderabad Station of Radio Pakistan.
The Nadd or Nai has been the common traditional instrument of Sindh and Baluchistan regions of Pakistan. In Sindhi, Nadd is the generic name for all kinds of reed plants, the stalks of which are hollow or can be hollowed by removing the pulp from inside.
Traditionally, Nadd and its music are associated with love, sorrow and separation. Thus, Sindhi folklore attributes the origin of Nadd to the love of Zulekha for Yusuf. While yearning for Yusuf, Zulekha used to perform ablutions, and from the water that collected grew the kangore reed from which Nadd was procured later. The wind buzzing through the fallen kangore stalk produced sweet tunes and all listeners felt solace and consolation. Hence the deep pathos is inherent in the music of nadd.
In its structure, Nadd is the simplest type of instrument, and yet most difficult to play. It is just a piece of hollowed reed with four equidistant holes pierced towards the tail end. It is open at both ends in its natural form, without any artifice for blowing into it. No sound is produced if one blows straight into it. The player has to blow it somewhat horizontally, with most of the mouth end of the instrument remaining open without being pressed or closed by the lips.
With reference to its length and girth, the instrument is called by two names: Kani which is thinner and smaller (about 12 to 18 inches long), and Nadd which is wider in girth and about 2 to 3 ½ ft long. The Gur music is usually played on the Kani, while the Phook and other varieties are played on Nadd. The two varieties, Gur and Phook, are basic to the Nadd music. In a way, Gur signifies the base or foundation and Phook the edifice. In general, the Gur represents the non-thematic and the Phook the thematic music of Nadd. The Gur manipulates musical notes, while the Phook spells out the words. The initial part of the Phook music is called Saddu or Otthani (the call), which is followed by the Phook (music sentence) proper.
Sharnai is an old indigenous instrument. Its use along with the Duhl goes back to the early eighth century AD. The body of the Sharnai is made from the wood of the Kiraar tree, and its sounding device from the Kangore reed. It has eight holes in a straight line and the ninth one, called babiho is below.
In olden times Sharnai was also called Karnai. Sharnai is a variation of Karnai, and both the words, Sharnai and the Karnai are of Persian origin meaning a trumpet, clarion a bugle. The Sindhian Sharnai has little in common with these instruments, except for a general resemblance, except for a general semblance in form, which gave it this name.
Sharnai is considered to be an instrument par excellence for playing both classical and popular music. Mevo and Mitho from Hyderabad were among the more distinguished Sharnai players by the turn of the 19th century. Khammu, Wasand and the Piral of Shikarpur were regular Sharnai performers at the anniversary functions of the Shah Abdul Latif at Bhitrarh. At present Mooso and Khuda Baksh of Hyderabad, Anban Faqir of Shahdapur, Haji of Tando Adam are among the best Sharnai players in the region.
It is a simple flute made out of aanchi, talhi or abnos wood of which a straight piece of about 12 to 18 inches long and 1.5 inches in diameter is hollowed from inside. Six equidistant small holes are then pierced through the side towards one end, and one larger hole in the same line towards the tip of the other end. Blowing somewhat horizontally into the larger hole produces sound notes and by using the fingertips on the other six holes one regulates the music.
Snake charmers all over the Indo Pak sub continent have in general been known for using this instrument, which is more commonly known as Pungi outside the Sindh region. It is only in Sindh region that it has been developed as an instrument of music and hence called Murli.
Murli consists of two parts with the upper part made out of a variety of gourd, which is dried and hollowed for the purpose. It serves as the main sound chamber, the lower part consists of two reed pipes, joined into a double barrel form, which are inserted into the main sound chamber from below and adjusted firmly by means of a thick wax-band.
Of the two reed pipes, the left one with eight equidistant holes is the main device for spelling out the melodies. The right one with the two holes at the end is called Madi Sur Ji Nali (pipe of the feminine tunes), which is the pipe for the subsidiary supporting tune.
Dhammal, two kinds: - Gogay-poti and Sadhoeen-poti and Lahro, two kinds: Nato or Nadd and Gajishahi Lahro are the traditional music styles of Murli. Lately, particularly after national independence, all kinds of melodies, both classical and popular have come to be played on the Murli.
During the first two quarters of the century, Misri Faqir of Sehwan was a master player of the Murli. More recently Mohammad Faqir Dal of Sujawal, Qadir Baksh Chauhan of Gujo and Iqbal Jogi are among the top-most Murli players.
Pava or Beenoon
The instrument commonly used all over the region consists of two flutes of the same size one known as Nar (male) with eight equidistant holes and towards one end and the other Maadi (female) with twelve equidistant holes.
The Nar is for Sur, that is for maintaining the basic supporting tune (SA of the classical octave), while the Maadi is used for spelling out the melody. During the late forties the Double Flute became very popular all over the region. It came to be recognized as a popular instrument for playing sweet melodies. Misri Khan Jamali of Nawbshah, who is among of the top-most players, became a professional player after giving up selling the instrument at fairs. Khamiso Khan was another topmost player who came into the limelight.
Today the Pava or Beenoon music is very popular and there are a few more accomplished players all over the country. Though Misri Khan Jamali and Khamiso Khan are the more renowned ones, Abdul Hakim Shaikh, Mohammad Yusuf Khaskeli, Shah Mohammad Nabina, Katiyar and many others also play on the Double Flute with skill and dexterity.