Back in the 80s, when there was only state-run TV, an engineer-turned-singer created waves when he sang poems of the great Pashto poet Ghani Khan.
Sardar Ali Takar, whose singing style resembled Saigal and Ustaad Nashanas, quickly became a favourite among the youth. It was not only his poetry and voice but the music was also modern, which attracted the Pashtun youth. Sardar Ali Takar’s sonorous voice and Ghani Khan Baba’s poetry became somewhat synonymous. Decades later, Takar is still known and revered for singing the great Pashto poet, Ghani Khan.
Now, in the age of social media, where the youth hardly read poetry books, one young singer Moeez’s voice is once again reviving the same love for Ghani Khan’s verses.
Moeezuddin Mohmand is just 24 and he has already found a voice as he sings Ghani’s verses. He said that he instantly connected to Ghani when he read his poetry. The youth can understand Ghani because his poetry is an expression of the feelings of the youth like him.
"Ghani is not just for the learned and the philosophers alone. Young people like us get him too," said Moeez. The problem so far has been the fact that the Pakhtun youth don’t read books in Pashto language.
"I don’t read books much but once I started reading Ghani Khan I was amazed how easy it was for me to get him," he said. He chooses verses and composes his songs himself. He came up with a few good compositions during jamming sessions with his friends Atif and Ishad Bangash.
His first two compositions on Ghani Khan’s verses 'Badshahi De Jehan Se Krhay, Zan La Walay Zyatay Gham' [Why do you want the kingdom of the world and increase your woes] and his composition of 'De Mohabbat Bazaar Ke Ogarzedam' [I walked in the market of love] are just a glimpse of his hidden talent that needs encouragement and an opportunity to bloom.
The youth is already sharing his songs on Facebook and WhatsApp, some hearing Ghani Khan’s verses for the first time through Moeez's songs.
Moeez likes to call his style a mix of rock and Sufi music but some of his notes hit folk chords of a Tapay-loving Pakhtun. His style, no wonder, is a unique mix because he experiments with his songs and tries to be original rather than copy other singers.
The 24-year-old has no resources to form a band and complete recording his albums ‘Badshahi’ and ‘ Qismat’ but he is happy singing on his own without any professional guidance or help.
He added that folk musical gatherings in hujras in his village are something he enjoys. There is no mic and no judgements, just pure fun singing to the locals in one’s own language. "I had been a bathroom singer for a long time and hadn't had many concerts," he said shyly.
The talented singer is very humble when he talks about his gifted voice. At times he is doubtful of his voice but when the youth listens to Ghani Khan in his rock style, it goes crazy. His friend Atif vouches for that. Ironically, Moeez's voice is soothing.
"I tell the audience to focus on the lyrics [Ghani Khan’s poetry] and it is so mesmerising that they forget how I sound," he said in a lighter vein.
He's boggled by how Sardar Ali Takar attracted youngsters to listen to his songs by singing Ghani Khan. He might be re-doing just that after decades but in a much challenging time to a youth attracted to many other technologies. He is once again reviving Ghani Khan for the Pakhtun youth.
Moeez may be young, unsure and an amateur, but he has attributes of making of a great Pashto singer.
During his lifetime, Ghani Khan was frustrated about how his verses were sung by folks, people say he even expressed it openly. Moeez’s songs, despite modern music, have captured the rebellious spirit of Ghani’s poetry. He has sung Ghani Khan aptly. Perhaps in a manner Ghani Khan himself would have liked the young singer's renditions of his songs.
Originally published in Dawn, November 24th, 2016