Famous classical guitarist Sajjad Taffu does not need any introduction. He is a solo instrument player who continues to perform on all TV channels. He was the first Pakistani musician to come up with music instrumental album. His live performances in which he plays all genres of music including rock, classical, blues, country music, folk and Mexican are a rare treat for music lovers. Sajjad belongs to Mozang Gharana which included music legends such as Master Inayat Hussain, Akhtar Hussain Akhiyan and Master Abdullah. His father Ustad Tafu Khan, a famous tabla player and composer, has to his credit hundreds of hit film songs. Sajjad’s craze for music knew no bounds. He started playing guitar in the film industry 1974 when he was only 10 years old. He played guitar for many hit songs. A graduate of Government College Lahore, he went to USA and started playing with black bands in the restaurants and streets of Harlem. After some years he came back to Pakistan and these days has taken the role of a teacher at the Lahore Arts Council. At Alhamra he can be seen surrounded by young boys and girls keenly following his fingers as he plays the guitar to teach them the tricks of the trade.

Sajjad has been playing guitar for 37 years. In all these years he has matured as an artiste and now composes music for TV drama serials besides teaching at Alhamra. He has hundreds of students and is also credited for popularising guitar among the young generation. He is adept in the classical tunes and is also well versed in the contemporary forms of music. He made a musical band named ‘Avengers’ in his college days, which was a rage in Lahore in 80s. He also released his album ‘Sufi Saga’, which had 10 different music items related to Sufism.

In an exclusive interview with Sunday Plus Sajjad talked about his career in the music industry and how music has become ingrained in his blood. “As a musician I have worked in the film industry with the top music directors. I have given background music of more than 100 films. ‘Pehla Pehla Pyaar’ and ‘The Godfather’ are the last movies for which I made music compositions. There are many plays of PTV that have my background music. 'Kabhi mein sochta hoon kuch na kuch kaho’, ‘Sona na chandi na koi mahal’ and ‘Mujhay dil se na bhoolana’ are my favourite compositions,” Sajjad said.

Sajjad Tafu is a regular performer at Alhama Art Council and Punjab Art Council programmes. He has performed in USA, UK, Canada, Europe and Dubai where he has a large fan following. “These days I am working with poet and director Mazhar Anjum and preparing the music of a serial play and its title song.

“At the same time I am also teaching at Alhamara Art Council where I am teaching the young students how to play guitar and other musical instruments. With this I also spare some time to perform in musical functions,” Sajjad said.

When asked about the interest of young generation in classical music, he said that still there are many young students who are keen to learn it. “I teach guitar. I am proud to say that many boys and girls trained by me now give live solo guitar performances and are appreciated by audiences.

“I have more than 2,500 students in Lahore. I have taught classical raga to a large number of students in USA and UK,” he said.

When inquired about the importance of tabla in music, he said that it was the basic instrument of music and without learning the beats of tabla no one could become a good musician. “In the classical music world tabla is the real teacher. Every musician has to learn tabla beats. I can play tabla because I have learnt it from Mian Miran Buksh whose name is the book of Guinness World Records as the best tabla player,” Sajjad said while explaining its importance.

Telling about his work briefly, he said that he had composed the poetry of Shah Hussain, Mian Muhammad Bukhsh, Khawja Ghulam Farid, Heer Waris Shah and Baba Bulleh Shah. “I have tried my best to fuse these with guitar strumming and dholak beats. Now I am revising tabla that will be an innovation. I will play guitar while fusing it tones with tabla,” the guitarist said.

Talking about the contemporary music versus classical music, he said had a very clear picture in his mind. “Contemporary singers are not musicians. They cannot create new music and new tunes. They simply copy tunes and mix them with some western musical tunes. They do not have any proper music training; whereas the classical musicians and singers have dedicated their lives for music. There can be no comparison.

“Presently, the plight of classical musicians is bad. They mostly live hand to mouth. This is in contrast to the contemporary singers who are affluent and have media support. But I can perceive that the tough phase will pass. Winds of change have started blowing and the world will soon revert back to real music.

“Now the supportive role of the government has also started and real artistes are getting reasonable amount in form of stipend every month. One thing more which should be initiated is the revival of music through channels and radio. There should be a specific channel to telecast the new and old programmes,” Sajjad said as if he was giving vent to his unexpressed thought after a long time.

On a query about his children carrying on the profession of their ancestors, he said that he was training his eleven-year-old son. “I am working diligently to convey this art, which we are carrying on from the last seven generations, to my son Imtiaz Taffu. He is a quick learner. He can play sitar, guitar, mandolin and tabla. He has performed live with me at a number of musical functions,” he said with an expression of satisfaction on his face.

Sajjad Taffu is a living star among us. Artistes like Sajjad Tafu are an asset of our country and his services should be acknowledged. He can be helpful in the revival of classical music and tunes which are losing their attraction in the young generation. It is high time for the government to take interest in promoting classical music which is part of our cultural heritage.