PESHAWAR: Ustad Aqal Meer, a banjo player from Landi Kotal, Khyber Agency, is in dire need of free speech therapy treatment.
A transporter by profession, Ustad Aqeel Meer suffered a severe brain hemorrhage stroke a few years ago and was left with obstructed speech communication. He spent Rs100,000 on his treatment. Now his hands are able to play banjo but he is still unable to speak out his heart and mind.
Only his immediate family members and close friends can understand when he tries to speak, however, he cannot sing folk songs as before along with playing his favourite musical instrument.
Ustad Aqal Meer’s family members, relatives, friends and fans have appealed to Senator Taj Mohammad Khan Afridi and MNA Haji Shahji Gul Afridi to make arrangements for his speech therapy treatment.
Wazir Rahman, a local music expert, said that there were many rabab players and folk singers but a few banjo and Chitrali sitar players in the tribal area. He said that Ustad Aqal Meer was the lone master banjo player, who could sing numbers along with playing the instrument.
“Besides mastery over banjo playing, Ustad Aqal Meer enjoyed a velvety voice. He could sing numbers of classical and modern Pashto poets,” said Mr Rahman.
Luqman Khan Shinwari, a fan of Ustad Aqal Meer, said that they made a humble request to their public representatives to extend financial help to the amateur banjo player to get his speech ailment treated.
He said that Ustad Aqal Meer was their asset and should be helped at that hour of need. He added that although he still performed occasionally despite illness, yet he needed proper treatment to get his beautiful voice retrieved.
“I have spent whatever I could afford on my treatment but doctors suggest that my speech therapy will cost huge amount to make me comprehensible. I lost my speech communication skill along with my talent to sing. Now I can only play my beloved banjo with some effort but cannot sing songs. I always used to play this wonderful instrument and sing folk songs to entertain local audience without charging fee,” the 60-year-old banjo player said in a broken language.
He said that transporting goods from one place to another was his profession but transporting minds of audience to sublimity was his passion.
Ustad Aqal Meer said that he had a natural flail for music and wanted to learn playing one of the string musical instruments. He went to village school and received only primary education and had to leave it owing to unfavourable family conditions.
At the tender age of 12, he used to attend wedding ceremonies where local Pashto folk singers performed and played rabab and mungay (pitcher). He learnt banjo from local artistes within two years.
Ustad Aqal Meer adopted transport as profession. His fertile imagination, however, transported him into the world of music and he continued to entertain audience with banjo playing along with his hard work. He has been playing banjo for the last over three decades.
“Banjo became my permanent friend. I faced family restrictions in the beginning. I convinced my family members, requesting them to allow me to occasionally play and sing just to entertain my friends without any fee or monetary compensation. Still my father was not happy with me. My elder uncle clandestinely permitted me to go ahead,” he recalled.
Shahzada Khan, his close companion, said that Ustad Aqal Meer never made a direct request to anyone for financial assistance when he suffered brain hemorrhage stroke a few years ago because he could afford spending on initial medical treatment. “Having spent everything he had, he is in dire need of free speech therapy treatment,” he added.
Originally published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2016