Centuries old drum-beating culture keeps alive in KP despite mushroom growth of social media

PESHAWAR: Known as a city of musicians and artists, Peshawar has kept alive the centuries-old tradition of drum beating, which is making weddings, birthday parties and other festivals more enchanting and colourful.

Despite the mushroom growth of social media and information technology, the dhol players have started roaring business during marriages, birthday parties and other celebrated occasions in Peshawar after the dropping of temperature in KP.

Peshawar has produced legendary musicians and artists of the calibre of Khyal Muhammad, Rafiq Shinwari, Firdus Jamal, Qavi Khan Javed Babar and Yousaf Khan (Dilip Kumar) who ruled in Pakistani and Indian cinemas.

Cleaning his dhol with a long white handkerchief, a drum-beater Zulfiqar alias Bhutto (47) often came to Peshawar cantonment where he sat in Fakhar e Alam Road’s square before his services were hired for marriages, birthdays and other festivals, especially on the weekend.

“I had entered into the dhol beating profession after the death of my father 20 years ago and come to Fakhar Alam Road’s green shadi hall square from Changarabad with a hope to earn maximum business on Saturday and Sunday,” Zulfiqar, who cleaned perspirations with handkerchief told APP.

“The drum beaters have pinned high hops from winter season due to an increase of marriages, engagements, festivals and hopefully the upcoming winter would bring happiness to the price hike hit community,” he said, adding the cost of dhols were also increased due to price hike and inflation.

“Two years ago, the price of a dhol was Rs20,000 along with beating plates that now jumped to Rs30,000,” he said, adding poor drummers economically suffer in case damage to their dhols,” he said.

“Mostly during monsoon season, the dhol with a beating plate of skin gets dampened and also affected in hot weather conditions, incurring substantial financial losses to them,” he said, adding plastic beating plates were mostly imported from abroad works for longer periods of time.

Naseeb Ali, another dhol player, who belonged to Lahore said that he was proud of his profession that helped his children attain up to university level education.

He said that drum beaters were being preferred over DJs because it was cost-efficient and required no electricity or expensive arrangements.

Known as Ustad, Naseeb said, “I had sent two dhols for repair and the third one inherited from my elder brother was being used in marriages, birthday parties, mehndi, political gatherings, weeding and other joyful occasions,” he said.

He hoped that their business would further shine during the upcoming General Elections.

“The earning of a dhol player depends upon the financial position of the hired party. Sometimes, we earn Rs5,000 and sometimes pocket Rs20,000 per program on weekend,” he said, adding a pair of dhol players normally charges Rs2,000 from the clients per program.

On weekends, the traditional drum-beaters were also seen waiting for customers at Ghandhara and Hayatabad Chowk where dhol lovers hire them for festivals. The people paid thousands to these drummers wearing white and yellow dresses in spite of advance music equipment and DJs to give a traditional touch to their weddings.

“I came to Green Shadi Hall Chowk to hire a pair of dhol players for engagement of my son that was cost efficient compared to DJs besides can easily be performed in indoor function and outdoor activities” said Haider Zaman, a resident of Wapda Town Peshawar.

Haider said that his father had also hired a traditional dhol player during his marriage 40 years ago.

Renowned TV star, Javed Babar (pride of performance) said in the past when a Pashto or Urdu film was released in the city, thousands of film lovers on drumbeats gathered outside the cinema houses and cheered for their favourite hero/heroine that was “now hardly seen today” in Peshawar due to growth of social media platforms.

He said one decade ago cinema was flourishing earning maximum capital with significant contributions by drummers to mobilize fans while in recent years its growth was adversely affected by the mushroom growth of social media platforms.

He said Peshawar has started losing the decades-old cinema houses, which have been converted into trade and commercial plazas depriving thousands of film lovers of entertainment.

Despite rich cultural heritage,  Peshawar had lost seven cinemas due to a lack of production of new films in Urdu and Pashto, high property taxes on cinemas, security concerns and commercialization.

Out of 15 cinemas in Peshawar, the seven oldest cinema houses including Shabistan (Firdus), Palwasha, Capital, Falak Sair, Novelty, Metro, Sabrina and Ihsrat were demolished and converted into trade and commercial centres and hotels for monetary gains.

The remaining few cinemas in Peshawar City including Arshad Cinema, Sabreena, Aaeena, Naz and Shama also seemed mostly deserted due to the unavailability of new films, high-production film cost, pathetic seating facilities and unsatisfactory approach by the past governments towards the film industry.

“I came to Peshawar to watch my favourite Pashto film at Arshad Cinema after the closure of two cinemas including ‘Taj’ in Mardan and was very disappointed after seeing limited numbers of movie fans,” said Nasir Khan, a Pashto film lover and resident of Katlang Mardan City.

He said the revival of cinema was imperative for education, Information and infotainment.

Gohar Khan, Manager of Sabrina Cinema, told APP that services of traditional dhol players were hired before the screening of new films to attract people.

He said cinema culture was declining in Peshawar due to poor quality of films, camera work and price hikes besides mushroom growth of cinema as dhol culture.

He said the rising monthly energy bills, staff salaries and property taxes had added to the financial difficulties of cinema owners.

The experts demanded special packages for cinema owners, producers and directors to promote the entertainment industry in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They also urged Govt to provide financial relief to dhol players affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

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