Popular artists, qawwals record elegiac kalaam albums, CD sales unaffected by internet downloads
Come Muharram, every year the theatres and cultural centres of Lahore are padlocked for a minimum of 12 days in respect of the tragedy of Karbala. More so, the artist community comes forward to play its part in the larger tradition of paying tributes to the martyrs by recording entire albums of their noha and marsia recitals.
The practice has always been an inherent part of the city’s cultural setting and has only gained momentum in recent times, thanks to commercial benefits.
Sales of CDs and VCDs of popular artists, qawwals and music directors have skyrocketed over the past week. Singers like Humaira Channa, Humaira Arshad, Shahida Mini, Anwer Rafi, Shaukat Ali, Shazia Manzoor, Maratib Ali Khan, Shair Miandad, Sayera Naseem, Naseebo Lal and Sahir Ali Bagga have all recorded their recitals with mainstream TV channels that are being aired continually.
Naseebo is confident she will sell a minimum of 20,000 copies of her noha album. “Yes it gives us a chance to earn a living. But money is not the only ambition,” she says.
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“Noha recital is beyond any doubt part and parcel of Eastern classical musical tradition. Although not many would admit this, today it serves the purpose of earning our singers good money as well,” says lyricist Altaf Bajwa.
Almost all gharanas of Lahore that are associated with music adhere to the school of elegy reciting quite religiously. They are invited at religious gatherings and processions across the city to recite traditional kalams in memory of the martyrs of Karbala.
Talking about her album, Humaira Arshad says she released a naat album in Ramazan and has now released a noha CD that pays homage to the suffering of the Holy Prophet’s (pbuh) descendants. “Money is not the motivation for me. I recite elegies to express my love for them. My mother herself used to address majalis and I have been doing this ever since I was young,” she says.
The tradition not only promotes sectarian harmony but also brings people from different schools of thought together in remembrance of the hardships of the family of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). Majalis are held at different historical places including Bibi Pakdaman, Karbala Gamay Shah, Nisar Haveli etc. CD shops near these places are laden with tribute albums of both popular and upcoming artists. “The title kalam of my album this year is called Labbaik Ya Hussain. We work for money all year round. This is just our way of remembering the martyrs,” says singer and music director Sahir Ali Bagga.
Sahir Ali Bagga
Code of conduct & responsibilities during Muharram
Times like Muharram and Ramazan also give a breather to those associated with the recording and distribution business since internet downloads have still not dented sales of naat, hamd, noha and marsia CDs. “Artists start working on their noha albums a long time before Muharram. We wait for these months all year round,” says music director Raza Shah.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2015.
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