ISLAMABAD-Punjabi folk singer, Sain Zahoor Iqbal has said that Punjabi culture and language is dying at the hands of Punjabis even as they have stopped speaking their mother tongue.

He observed that as Punjabis move to big cities, they change their language and actually stop speaking the mother tongue. He said that people think that other languages as Urdu and English are superior than Punjabi as he spoke to The Nation in an exclusive interview. 

The folk singer has been staying at Lok Virsa here in connection with week-long Folk Festival of Pakistan ‘Lok Mela’ ending Sunday.

Iqbal lamented that unlike Pashtoons, Sindhis and Balochis, Punjabis don’t celebrate ‘Punjabi Culture Day.’ “Culture in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces is still alive as they strive for it… they celebrate it regularly but on the other hand, Punjabis are least bothered in this regard. Culture and language are recognition of a land and in Punjab’s case, no one seems willing to patronise it,” he observed. 

Sain Zahoor Iqbal, born in 1959 in a village in Tehsil Deepalpur, district Okara in the Punjab province is a leading Sufi singer. He started singing at the age of 11. During his career spanning over 40 years, Iqbal spent most of his time singing at Sufi shrines. For some time, he studied music under Saeen Zahoor Ahmed, who is also a leading folk singer. Both belong to the same family. Iqbal is not literate yet he sings compositions of major Sufi poets as Bulleh Shah, Sultan Bahoo, Baba Fareed, Khawaja Ghulam Fareed, Mian Muhammad Buksh, etc. Zahoor has been staying in Islamabad in connection with Lok Mela at Lok Virsa in Islamabad.

Zahoor Iqbal performs with his decorated “Toonba,” a kind of lute. The three-stringed lute is his main instrument and his style of singing and frenzied-style dance is enough to enthral audience. His typical outfit includes embroidered kurta and tightly bound black turban. He sings in both Punjabi and Siraiki.

Sain Zahoor Iqbal told The Nation that until recent past people in Punjab used to hold festivals but he added that this trend is also dying down now. “As the festivals and cultural performances are losing attraction for the people, the performers are also finding it difficult to earn livelihood. Now Coronavirus has come to limit our interaction with the audience,” he said. Besides solo performance, Iqbal also used to sing in a group of four others: one with pipe, others at drum, flute and tabla (pair of twin hand drums).

To a question, Sain Zahoor Iqbal said that Indian people love music, and also have a great deal of respect for the singers. He was sad that there was no one behind in their family to take along the singing profession. “Me and Saeen Zahoor Ahmed may be the first and the last persons to adopt this profession in our family,” he lamented.