Keeping Folk Music Alive in Peshawar

The Pashtun musical quartet, Khumariyaan has been on the road to improve the music scene in their province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one strum at a time. The energetic, young and crazy bunch has been giving crowds an eclectic mix of traditional Pashtun music while being very clear with their message that KP is culturally alive and kicking. The members of the band include Farhan Bogra, Shiraz Khan, Aamer Shafiq and Sparlay Rawail who have taken up instruments like Rabbab and Guitars. Libas, in conversation with Aamer talks about the band, their choice of instruments and their future plans.

Tell us about Khumariyaan, how did you guys come together and how long have you been playing together?

Aamer Shafiq: It all started around a decade ago when Farhan, Shiraz and I met at our university in Peshawar and started playing together. After that, we met Sparlay at this underground music battle of the bands in Islamabad, where he was introduced to us and we played together during the competition and won it. Since then we have had the same positioning on stage wherever we perform. 

How did you come up with the name Khumariyan and what does it mean to you?

The name was given to us by our fans; we would initially perform for our friends unplugged. 

Khumariyaan means anything that takes you into the state of “khumar or intoxication” and the agent(s), in this case, are called “Khumariyaan”.

What meaning does your music hold for you?

Our music is a collective expression of the young educated youth of KP and it is contemporary rock folk instrumental Pashto music. The significance is to revive the Pashto music scene across the globe, it is at the forefront of breaking down stereotypes about KP and Pashtuns. 

Talk us through your creative process

We just start playing and if something catches our attention and is good to listen to, we just develop that and the main idea is just to allow all the members to participate equally and give them a creative space to grow. Most of the creative process happens on stage where we just play from our hearts and once we get into the zone, it all just goes with the flow. Having said that, we don’t have acoustic jam sessions or subdued jam room sessions like most bands, so our creative process is very different, in my opinion than most of the other bands. 

Can you please elaborate on the choice of your instruments?

Back when we started playing, the art of Rabbab was withering away, so we saw it as an opportunity to bring the instrument back into the mainstream industry within the next decade. To complement its steel/nylon strings we use the same material strings for the guitar. For the first time, we combined a traditional percussion with the Rabbab that forms the bass and slap section called the Zeer Baghli

Moreover, over the years we have added more instruments that are song specific, including the rarely played Pashtun Sehtar and a Khattak Dhol along with various other percussion instruments to bring the live show to life.

With specifics to the Rabbab and drums, do you think to play these instruments live are a dying art in the industry?

It depends on the province since KP was hit the hardest by the security situation in the country, thus, playing folk instruments and the making of instruments was very difficult for the longest period of time. However, ever since the Neo-ethnic wave of new music hit the industry, these instruments were brought back to life and were revived, some more than the others, but one can never have enough of listening to folk instruments being played live.

What are your takes on the band culture in Pakistan? How do you think the Pashtun music has evolved over the years? 

As a band, we are yet to make a breakthrough and compete for side by side with veteran bands like EP, Junoon and Vital Signs, that have made an impact on the people and their love for music. It is amazing to see the response we get from the Pashtun youth, not only that, there are people who would drive for hours or take flights from nearby cities to come and listen to us play live and after Coke Studio, it has only gotten better. Our people are very energetic and every time the audience is very interactive.

After performing on local and international platforms, how has the response been amongst the different audiences?

We are really happy with the response we have received all around the world, it is safe to say that internationally we are yet to perform a show where we don’t get a standing ovation.

Do you think it is a big responsibility to keep the cultural music alive and broadcast at an international stage considering how the audience has received it?

Not really, I mean, yes, we do have a responsibility to represent our country and its music in good taste. Apart from that, we are just four brothers who have a great time on and off stage and our chemistry was well received as well by the audience.

What is the one thing you want the audience to take away from your music?

We leave it to the audience, they can interpret it in any way and take away whatever they want from our music. Since it is mostly instrumental, the best part is that it does not limit their creative thought process.

Although, the one thing, we, as a band would want the audience to take away is the satisfaction of having your own emotions and opinions about things.

What’s next for Khumariyaan?

A music video, an album and a lifetime of music and happiness.

Trying to climb the ladder of success with tiny legs. Oh, and my love for movies and music gets me money.

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