Government neglect spells the end of a generation of clarinet players
Performing as a professional instrument player for almost four decades, Jaffar Hussain Randhawa is one of the very few clarinet players of the country. He has a masterly command on playing classic ragas on clarinet, which is considered a tough and complex instrument to render the classical compositions.
Randhawa was born into a family of farmers in 1960, in a small village Faizpur Khurd in district Sheikhupura.
“My grandfather, Master Din Muhammad Randhawa, used to play trumpet in a British band before the Partition. After his retirement, he made his own band in the Faizpur Khurd , and named it the Punjab Band. It made a big professional success, and that’s how we came into music,” he recalls.
He says that one of his uncles, Muhammad Sharif, had learnt clarinet playing from Babu Muhammad Hussain aka Billu of the famous Babu Band and his father, Master Rehmat Ali, followed him and started learning clarinet from Ustad Sohni Khan, another music legend of the subcontinent.
“In 1947, my grandfather bought a shop at Chowk Paniwala Talaa, near Rang Mahal in the Walled City, Lahore, and moved the band there.”
Jaffar started learning playing clarinet at the tender age of seven from his uncle, Muhammad Sharif, after the school hours. On a later stage, his father also started teaching him. “I was hardly 13 when my grandfather passed away. I left my studies and started working with the band. At 16, I started playing clarinet professionally, and the journey is still on,” he added.
Jaffar says that to refine his skills, his father took him to Babu Nazeer Hussain Sohni. He said that along with the Ustad, other eminent players, including Ustad Talib Hussain Haidrabadi, were kind enough to teach the details of clarinet playing.
“While playing among the senior musicians, a key of my clarinet started missing. When they criticised my art, my father said, ‘If he is my blood, he will excel and perform and make you speechless’.”
Jaffar considers the statement of his father the watershed moment in his professional career which changed his life. He would keep practising with passion for hours. Even cutting of power supply connection to the shop by Wapda during the entire summer season couldn’t damper his passion.
A stunning performance at the All Pakistan Music Conference in 1999 introduced him to the circles of serious music listeners of Lahore.
It led him to work as a solo performer on TV and radio. He is widely respected among his fellow musicians for his outstanding skills, especially rendering of the complicated form of ‘Kafi’.
“I am loved by the musicians and music-lovers but really unhappy over the discriminatory attitude of the government organisation towards instrument players,” Jaffar laments in a bitter tone.
This is tragic that none of his children or any other family members are carrying forward the family tradition of playing musical instruments. It indicates that the detachment and derogatory attitude of society and state towards the art of music.
“They are happy with their professions and don’t want to go through the hard work, pain and agony which their father have been through, all his life,” Jaffar says in a bitter tone.
Originally published in Dawn, April 25th, 2016