Sardar Ali Takkar, Zafar Ali Usafzai
Published in Khyber.ORG on Thursday, June 23 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)
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Publishing Date: Thursday, June 23 2005
Takkar, a small village in District Mardan, may be known to many of the Historians because of the Tragic War that took place between the British Army and the Villagers and which resulted in a mass bloodshed of the innocent villagers. But almost every Pakhtun around the world knew Takkar because of a veteran personality, which opened her eyes in this village. Long ago in the decade of 1960's, when this child used to play in the streets of his village, perhaps none of the villager would have thought that this child would become the identity of their village, all over the world. This child when grew, decided to adopt singing, not as a profession but as a challenge to serve the Pashto music and raise it to new heights.
Today the world knows this personality with the name of Sardar Ali Takkar. A veteran of the Pashto singing scene, Takkar is practically a household name almost all over the country among the Pakhtuns. Every Pakhtun feels pride on having his cassette with himself. He has been plying his trade since early 1980s, and has earned his big break by singing a veteran poets like Rahman Baba, Khushal Khan khattak, Khatir Afridi, Hamza Shinwari and of course the great Ghani Khan. Like a wild flower, which sprouts from the virgin soil and blossoms to full ambience untended, he became one of the most sought after Pashto singer.
Born in 1956 at Takkar village (Thakt Bahi) Mardan, he passed his metric examination from his village school and did his F.Sc. from Government College Mardan. He completed his graduation in Mechanical Engineering from University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar. Aside from this he has also attended special courses in U.K and Canada.
From the very beginning, he had developed a flavor for music. Takkar had a natural flair for singing. He used to take part in Naat, Qirat and singing competitions during his school time. When he was in class 8th, he played mouth organ on the stage for the first time. He used to play different musical instrument stealthily at that time. He often used to play "Sitar" (a musical instrument) at one of the peasants home, namely Anwar Khan in the nearby village. Because of the social and political affiliations of his family, it was very difficult to play these musical instruments in the traditional Hujra. While in college, he started fiddling with the rabab, another stringed instrument.
At university level, when Takkar was away from his family's norms and values, he started giving full intention to this art. As a first step he joined the Abaseen Arts Council for formal musical training. Here he learnt playing different instruments like Rabab, Harmonium from Sardar Ustad. He also learnt from some of the great masters of the period: Khalid Haider Malik and Sultani Sahib.
His University life provided him more chances to exhibit his hidden talent. Initially he used to present his skills before his friends, in different musical programme in the university. But it was in 1982 when Yar Muhammad Maghmum, a professor at the historic Edward College Peshawar, wanted to celebrate an evening with the great legendry and dynamic philosopher Ghani Khan, but was unable to find a singer who was ready to meet the challenge of putting Ghani's poetry in music. When Takkar became aware of the situation, he agreed to sing in that programme. Some people also recorded this programme on audiocassette, which got so prominence that even the music stores started selling it on regular basis. In this way, his debut album (solely based on Ghani khan's poetry) touched the market, so incidentally.
It was in those days when a programme for youths named "Zalmey Kool" (Young Generation) used to broadcast from the Radio Pakistan. Takkar for the first time not only played different instruments but also sang two ghazals in that programme.
After that, he also had the opportunity to record a programme at the Peshawar Center of Pakistan Television Vision (PTV). In 1984, Takkar left for Afghanistan. His stay in Afghanistan helped him in a way that he became able to sing poetry of those poets who were banned in Pakistan and his singing from Afghanistan also brought him prominence back at home.
Kundan Lal Sehgal (1904-1947) had remained a great source of inspiration for Takkar. The sphere of K.L. Sehgal's recorded music was very vast, as he had sung in Hindi, Urdu, Pashto, Punjabi, Bengali and Tamil. Takkar was so much inspired by Sehgal that at very young age he used to listen a music programme comprising of one of the Sehgal's song, which was broadcasted from the radio daily in the morning. Such was the power and mystique of Sehgal's singing that Takkar too started his career singing in the 'Sehgal style' before etching out his own identity. Aside from Sehgal, he also got inspired from Jugjeth Singh, Punkaj Udhas and Mehdi Hassan.
The major feature, which became the hallmark of his singing, was the selection of Ghani Khan's poetry. From the very beginning, Takkar had an inclination towards Philosophy and used to read the Poet of the East i.e. "Allama Mohammad Iqbal" when he was in class 8th at his village school. After that he had also studied the poetry of Rahman Baba and Khushal Khan Khattak, but when he read Ghani Khan he felt him as the one whom he was searching for. This is due to the reason that in Ghani Khan's poetry, he had found so many shades -- ranging from freedom, love of God, land and people, nationalism, fate, the mysteries of life and death, the joys of communion, and the woes of separation to beauty. Ghani khan was a true poet of modernism who was at home in variety of subjects like mysticism, romanticism, nationalism, skepticism, aestheticism, and philosophy.
Terming his stance and love towards Ghani Khan, he often narrates an interesting story. He recalls that one day while roaming in the hostel at University, he got a verse of Ghani Khan written on one of the door. Which was:
"Che Da Taqwa Zaar Sajde She Jama, Da Ishq Yo Saat Thre Jor She."
[One thousand prostrations (bows) when combined, give birth to a lone moment of love]
Seeing this verse gave birth to a motion and zeal in him, compelling him to search out for Ghani Khan's poetry. As in those days, the government had banned Ghani Khan, therefore Takkar found it difficult to get any book comprising of his poetry. But this did not force him to stop there and he continued his search. At last, he succeeded in finding a book of Ghani Khan in the library of Area Study Center, University of Peshawar. Although this gave an extreme happiness to him, but to his sheer disappointment he was not allowed to borrow that book, being a reference book. For this Takkar had a novel solution, he used to stay till evenings in the library, noting down Ghani's Poetry in his diary.
Takkar is the first well-educated Pashto singer. Before him, the sphere of Pashto music listeners was very limited in which the educated class was next to none but it was Sardar Ali Takkar who not only compelled the educated people to listen Pashto music, but also paved the way for educated ones who wanted to adopt Pashto singing. The main reason for which is that before him, the Pashto singers were mostly uneducated who did not paid much heed towards the selection of poetry for songs. They used to sing in those few traditional styles, which were prevalent from centuries. They also did not tried to expose the great poets to general masses through music, which resulted in the immature and bad taste for Pashto music.
Contrary to them, Takkar having inclination towards literature, selected genre like philosophy and mysticism and that too were presented in an innovative style that is why these trends were acknowledged by the masses immediately. They started listening him, not only for his melodious voice but also for his selection of the best poetry. Takkar had always focused on the content of poetry along with music, as he believed that quality poetry is must for quality music.
Takkar has strived in almost all the genre of Pashto poetry, which include ghazal, rubayi, charbeta, tappa, nemake and badala.
Takkar has also strived hard in selection and singing of ghazals, which has a special place in the literary universe. He has got a matchless style for presenting rubayi, which is developed by him lonely. His rubayi style had remained a striking force in shooting his fame.
But the most laudable and inimitable aspect of Takkar singing is "Azad Nazam" which he put in the musical tones. Although Azad Nazam has proved too difficult to be understand but it was Takkar's tireless efforts, which resulted in recognition of Azad Nazam in the general public. Regarding "Azad Nazam", Takkar opines that until the singer gets over the original message contained in it, it is impossible to sing it. All it need is great willpower and mindset. In his opinion, the singer must strive to put his mind behind each word he renders. Even now when the moment he sings Azad Nazam, the clamor in the surrounding gives way to complete silence.
After almost stumbling into a singing career, Takkar quickly touched the apex of success and his soulfully rendered Pashto rubahis and specially Azad Nazams of the great Ghani Khan, touched responsive chords among music buffs in the province. The mellifluous quality and timbre of his natural voice have a special appeal for the serious folks and students specially.
In the beginning, Takkar was very selective regarding his selection of poetry and mostly serious people enjoyed it, but when in one of the TV programme, he sang tappe, majority of the common folk also liked him and wished him to continue singing for common folk also. It is pertinent to mention here that tappa is the lone genre of Pashto poetry, which does not exist in any other language. He had also attributed to the great singers of the past whose aura and charisma still remains intact including Muzaffar Khan, Gulnar Begum, Rafiq Shinwari etc by remixing their legendry songs.
Being, himself a candidate of mysticism, it credits for Takkar who not only went for Rahman Baba's mystic poetry but also acknowledged the elegant mysticism of Ghani Khan. Of the two, he terms the poetry of the later as the best regarding mysticism, which according to him is nothing but the acquaintance to the GOD Almighty.
Regarding services for music, Takkar does not seem happy with most of the past singer who although bestowed with melodious voice, left singing but did not tried to serve their language in real meaning. He also feels uneasy with the present day Pashto music, prevailing in the market place, where by no heed is given to the selection of poetry and mostly substandard poetry is selected for singing. He considers it a serious threat to the Pashto music, which instead of promotion is causing huge loss to it.
Looking in to the history of Pashto music, it become obvious that up till now none of the singer worked with proper planning for the development of Pashto language and music i.e. most of them have not taken this profession as a mission. They adopted it merely as their source of income. But when it comes to Takkar, he kept on doing new experiments in the Pashto music. He has intentionally tried to add the musical flavors of different languages in to the Pashto music. He has added the Arabic, Turkish, Spanish and African beat to his compositions. At the same time, Takkar's outwit is that he has kept the identity of Pashto music intact.
Takkar keeps on doing new experiments in the Pashto music with a missionary zeal. For instance he has recently come up with a new album (No.81) containing classical Pashto songs. The most interesting part is that he developed different tones (Raygs) and presented the poetry of the great mystic Rahman Baba in it. These raygs consists of Darbari, Shankara, beharwi, Meaig, Peelo Tumri, Classical Tarana and Istahani Antyra. It was his these efforts which led a Denmark based organization to confer him a special award for singing Rahman Baba's poetry.
In order to produce a quality music and carry forward his musical skills to the new generation, Takkar has established a studio named "Takkar Rhythms" where he keeps on doing new experiments regarding music. Presently he also participates in the "Khyber Beats- Classic" (a musical programme) of the lone private Pashto TV Channel. He also has intends to establish a video studio for making videos of songs. In his opinion, the videos, which are prepared presently, are not in conformity with what the singer sings. The singer sings something while the video comprises of totally different thing. According to him, a successful video is the one, which is made according to the urgency and spirit of "subjective music".
Unassuming, friendly and down-to-earth Takkar is a born and self-taught vocalist whose vocal resources have equipped him to also fluently render songs in languages other than Pashto like Farsi and Urdu. He had also held concerts not only in Pakistan, but also in Dubai, Britain, Canada, Germany and Afghanistan.
In recognition of his unforgettable services to Pashto Music, the government of Pakistan awarded him with the Pride of Performance. He is also a recipient of numerous awards and certificates from a number of cultural organizations.
This article appeared in the Daily Statesman, Peshawar on 17 June 2005 and is reproduced here with the author's approval.
Sardar Ali Takkar, Zafar Ali Usafzai
Published in Khyber.ORG on Thursday, June 23 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)