Folk Music of Pakistan, 1975-76

Article excerpt

Folk Music of Pakistan, 1975-76. 2007. By Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy and Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy. 60 minutes, colour and b/w, DVD. ISBN 1-880519-35-6. Apsara Media for Intercultural Education, http://apsara-media.com.

When performances of Pakistan's folk music find their way to record, they tend to be of non-participatory, professional genres meant for what one might call "seated entertainment." Recordings of traditional song material, in a style for local consumption, constitute a type of popular music. And in "official" presentations intended for wider audiences, "folk" aspects are often limited to the text and melodic form, the music being separated from its functioning ethnographic context. In light of this, recordings in a naturalistic style, such as are available among the present collection by Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy, are most welcome. Folk Music of Pakistan is all the more attractive in that its recordings afford historical value. The recordings were made in 1975, during a three-week fieldtrip to Pakistan, and in 1976, at the Festival of American Folklife in Washington, DC.

Made in part under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution and Pakistan's National Institute of Folk Heritage, Lok Virsa, these recordings do not completely escape the shadow of the "artistic folk" presentational style. This includes, for example, "folk songs" that are not sung, but rather played as melodies upon instruments. Rather than hearing the pipes and drums of khatak dance in context, we find a group of musicians seated on a lawn playing a facsimile of the dance's accompaniment on concert instruments. A folk song for women is rendered in concert-style by a man; indeed, there is a notable absence of women on the disc, save for examples of the rather idiosyncratic Kalash culture. In Pakistan, where spheres of music-making are so often circumscribed by gender, this means a considerable portion of the musical culture is not represented, including much ritual-based song and amateur music for which women are the tradition-bearers. …