PESHAWAR-Once most popular in Pakhtun Hujra culture, the Sitar instrument has been widely replaced by musical instrument Rabab in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to some noted Sitar players, Sitar was the most popular musical instrument in Pakhtun culture. However, with the passage of time, some modern musical instruments have replaced it, causing its gradual disappearance.

The Sitar was not only a vital string instrument of Pashto Hujra culture of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas but was also played in the cafes of Chitral, Ghizar, Gilgit, Hunza, and Afghanistan in accompaniment of beautiful poetry.

It is still popular in Chitrali musical shows, but rarely used in Pakhtun cultural shows as Sitar’s use is now very limited here despite the presence of other prominent players. The instrument listeners in the area have mostly switched over to Rabab which causes its increasing popularity. According to some Sitar lovers, the narrow sound of Sitar was an unforgettable part of Pashto culture, which has long been used to attract a large number of listeners to the musical gathering in Hujras.

Zainullah, a Sitar player of Charsadda, said most of the instrumental music lovers have now switched over to Rabab, which has double sound as compared to Sitar’s light music.

However, he informed that still some Sitar lovers are found in rural areas of the province. Zainullah said that once there was a time when a Hujra show was incomplete without Sitra, however with the passage of time Rabab has overlapped it.

The some of the noted Sitar players have been passed away and others have switched this profession due to decreasing popularity of this instrument.

He, while mentioning the names of some skilled Sitar artists, said that Wahab Gul from Swabi and Shad Mohammad Ustad from Mardan were prominent Sitar players in the province.

“Shad Ustad was among some renowned Sitar players, but this is unfortunate that much of his work has been lost as the department concerned did not preserve his work, Zain deplored. He also held the Pakistan Television’s Peshawar centre and Radio Pakistan Peshawar responsible for not preserving the art of Sitar playing.

The Sitar player said that KP Culture Department Deputy Director Riaz Khan had assured him that he would open an academy for him, but so far no steps have been taken for the preservation of this musical instrument. He termed this delay a reason behind disappearing of Sitar instrument in the Pashtun cultural.

Kiran Khan, a local singer, while commenting on the downward trend of Sitar in Pashtun culture, said that the experts of Sitar instrument are also responsible of this trend as they were demanding high reward instead of respecting the profession. Khan said, “We still have some good Sitar players like Gohar Jan, Waqar Attal, and Zainullah but the people have little interest in Sitar instrument and that is why it is gradually disappearing from our musical shows.” Another Sitar player Waqar, who is also running a musical academy, said he can teach both Sitar and Rabab but most of his students are interested in Rabab paying. “We are making efforts to revive this instrument along with Rabab and that is the reason it is part of every musical show. But some time music lovers insist Rabab instead of Sitar,” he said.

The Indigenous Cultural Heritage Project Director, Arshad Hussain, also expressed disappointment that Pakhtuns do not take interest in Sitar instrument.

Arshad Hussain said Sitar is now only limited to Chitral and the Northern Areas of the country. He said, “Unfortunately in our musical shows, people are least interested to make it part of Olassi Tang Takoor as compared to the earlier period.” “We have a lot of hidden talent of Sitar and early times players and artists still remembering the golden age of this musical instrument but due to the use of modern musical instruments, the role of Sitar fell dim,” Hussain said.

Now the music teachers are also not interested to further educate youngsters on the art of Sitar, he remarked.

He said that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Culture Department has taken a number of steps to restore our indigenous culture whether it is music or sports but it will take time and utilization of resources.

Arshad Hussain said that the culture department has allocated Rs100 million to arrange programs in various parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa where players of Sitar would be duly encouraged to revive the old glory of this musical instrument.

He mentioned that it is their foremost responsibility to preserve the art of old musical instrument as both Sitar and Rabab are the souls of KP culture.

The artist said that it should be the top most priority of the KP government to explore Sitar and Rabab players and set up an academy for them to educate others youngsters.

He added that the culture department has taken tangible steps to keep the new generation aware of their cultural heritage and arranging new programs under the RICH project which was aimed to explore the talent of Sitar.

He further informed that the KP cultural department has arranged 1,600 musical activities in 25 districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in which Olassi Music was a major portion. For this purpose, a task has been handed over to 33 cultural organizations, who are putting their efforts to preserve this centuries old musical instrument.