The dance is performed by three people – two in a camel costume and one who leads them
Dance of the Daachi – a female camel – has been an integral part of south Punjab’s cultural fabric for longer than anyone recalls. It was revived in 1970, by Syed Faqir Hussain Shah, formerly a teacher and in-charge of the dramatic society at the Government Muslim High School Multan, who reworked the complex moves to be performed by two people dressed in a camel costume dancing in sync to traditional music.
The dance is usually performed to the lively chorus Meray Sajna Di Daachi Badami Rung Di (My lover’s camel is almond-white).
Recalling the year the dance was first performed by students of the 97-year-old high school, former deputy headmaster Muhammad Hashim Khan says Chaudhry Abdur Rehman, headmaster of Government Muslim High School Multan in 1970, was a perfectionist with a penchant for literary activities. He started the Daachi dance for students to boost extracurricular activities at the school, Khan says.
The costume was designed by Shahzad Gul and produced by Faqir Hussain Shah. Gul choreographed many of the dances as well, Khan says. Chaudhary Muhammad Akram, another teacher, used to hold rehearsals of the folk dance before every event, he recalls.
“It’s a complicated dance which requires stability and a lot of practice. If the performers miss the first step, the second one is thrown off sync.”
He said the performance required meticulous precision and coordination by three students. Two performers dress like the Daachi and the third leads it from the front. He is called saarban.
The first dance was performed by Syed Muhammad Jaffer Jaffery who was in the front of the Daachi costume and Rana Ashraf who took the rear. Mubarak Ali Anjum was the first saarban, Khan recalls. They were students at the school during the 1970s, the former deputy headmaster says.
Students of the Government Muslim High School Multan have had the honour of performing the Daachi dance in front of then Queen of Iran Farah Pahlavi in 1976-77 during the International Scout Jambori in Nishatabad, Iran. Chaudhry Abdur Rehman had led the delegation comprising 60 students and teachers.
Famed German scholar Dr Annemarie Schimmel, who visited Multan in the ’70s, mentions the Daachi dance in her research paper. Late Agha Waseem Ahmed continued the tradition during his tenure followed by Niaz Ahmed Abid. A retired teacher of the school, Allah Wasaya Nasir, has carried on the tradition and kept it alive in recent years.
These days, Muhammad Ali Raza performs the front part of the Daachi, Muhammad Waseem plays the rear and Rehan Khan leads the duo as the saarban.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2015.