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Living Colours: ‘Fusion music more acceptable now, but it is not new’

Living Colours: ‘Fusion music more acceptable now, but it is not new’

Naz Sahito is a journalist and music researcher from Hyderabad who has an interest in music and the history of music around the world.

Mr Sahito is involved in radio and television programmes and is compiling a book of writings centred on his work as a music researcher.

Dawn caught up with him when he was at the Pakistan Mother Languages Literature Festival in Islamabad to discuss his experience in this field.

Q: What inspired you to pursue music research?

A: I was definitely interested in music personally, but more than that music is part of Sindh’s traditional atmosphere. When I was young, artists would visit our village, which is how music captured my interest, and my father was also very fond of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s poetry.

Bhittai is an icon for us. We interpret weddings, condolences, politics, struggle, martial law and everything else through Bittai’s poetry, who was also a great musician. People know our literature and folk poetry through music. We don’t have much literacy, but it would be difficult to find a teenager who didn’t know a couplet or two of Shah Latif’s.

Q: Do you focus specifically on folk music from Sindh?

A: I don’t focus on Sindh, although of course Sindh is my homeland so it is very easy and accessible, but music from all over the world is my passion – not just traditional music. For the last two years, the biggest music festival in Pakistan happens in Hyderabad – the Lahooti Music Festival – this time we had musicians from 18 countries. So, Sindh has that scope.

Music has varied over the different eras, but to me, these periods don’t matter. When the Dancing Girl was recovered from Mohenjo-Daro, that meant that where there was a dance, there was a beat. There were instruments. To me, this is what is interesting.

Q: What is your perspective on fusion music?

A: Folk or traditional music that was popular at one period in time becomes a classic over time – there is no extremism acceptable in music, where some instruments or types of music are acceptable and others are not. Even current performers have learnt the same things – the chords, the notes, which used to be called sur.

There are a lot of commonalities between instruments around the world – there are basically three kinds of instruments: percussion instruments, string instruments and wind instruments, but they vary in their formations.

Music doesn’t have any boundaries, so we try to think of it in terms of geographical boundaries. But the scales and metres are the same, all that changes is the face of the instrument – the basics stay the same. Fusion music has become more acceptable now but it is not a new thing. I am no music fundamentalist.

Q: Do you think music is political?

A: Music and literature – folk or otherwise, if it is removed from its land, its condition and people then it has no importance. In Bhittai’s Marvi, which is 300 years old and is about Marvi being imprisoned by the powerful king Umar – or Sohni, the heroes are not those enforcing the status quo but the heroines who want to break the status quo. So, how can poetry not be political? Romance is a human feeling, just as anger and protest – it is all a part of music and literature.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2017

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