Tufail Niazi

The other day someone forwarded on WhatsApp to me a clipping of an old live performance on PTV. The song was evergreen “tarak kar ke”. As I had heard the song in my childhood, this clipping brought back whole lot of memories. A little bit of research revealed that the artist was Tufail Niazi, the king of folk music. His repertoire includes such marquee songs as “sada chidiyan da Chamba” , ” main nahin jaana kheriyan de naal” apart from the evergreen “tarak karke”. These songs are popular on the either side of the border and are sung in Punjabi households during marriages and other functions.

Two things crossed my mind while writing on this subject. First is Tufail Niazi represented a breed of artists who had lived on the either side of the border, shared a common heritage and were loved equally ardently in both the countries. Like Dilip, Dev or Raj, all born in Peshawar in Pakistan, Tufail was born in Jalandhar and had performed all over India from Saharanpur to Jaipur to Kolkata before moving to Pakistan post partition. In his interviews he fondly recalled his association with so called Hindu centric activities such as managing a gau shala ( and actually publicising the need to treat cow as mother and not to abandon or slaughter her), taking parts in Ras Leelas, singing Krishna bhajans and performing nautanki. This clearly shows that for an artist only music is his religion and language. With the demise of almost every one of that era, this breed is on the verge of extinction and that much touted common heritage, music and performing arts that the two countries shared will be a thing of the past.

Second thought is that punjabi pop and punjabi influenced Bollywood songs that are heavy on rhythm are not true representatives of punjabi folk and it’s richness. It’s raagdari, gharana based singing , mellifluousness and richness would in no sense be less than Hindustani or Carnatic classical music that we aficionados of music hold in such high esteem while discounting punjabi songs as shallow and frivolous.

Tufail Niazi’s sons under the banner of Niazi brothers are carrying forward their late father’s rich legacy.

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