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Music of Pakistan

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Title: Music of Pakistan  
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Subject: Pakistani pop music, Coke Studio (Pakistan), Media of Pakistan, History of Pakistan, Music of Asia
Collection: Pakistani Music
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Music of Pakistan

Music of Pakistan
Specific forms
Religious music
Traditional music
Media and performance
Music awards Lux Style Awards
Hum Awards
Pakistan Media Awards
Music festivals All Pakistan Music Conference
Music media
Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthem Qaumi Taranah
Regional music
Local forms
Related areas

The Music of Pakistan includes diverse elements ranging from music from various parts of South Asia as well as Central Asian, Persian, Turkish, Arabic and modern-day Western popular music influences. With these multiple influences, a distinctive Pakistani sound has been formed.


  • Ghazal 1
    • Notable composers and performers 1.1
  • Qawwali 2
    • Instruments 2.1
    • Humnawa 2.2
    • Notable composers and performers 2.3
  • Religious 3
    • Hamd 3.1
    • Dafli 3.2
  • Classical 4
  • Regional 5
    • Balochi 5.1
    • Punjabi 5.2
    • Potohari 5.3
    • Sindhi 5.4
    • Notable Sindhi singers 5.5
    • Kashmiri 5.6
    • Saraiki 5.7
    • Pashto 5.8
    • Persian 5.9
    • Hindko 5.10
  • Modern 6
    • Pop 6.1
    • Rock 6.2
    • Hip hop 6.3
  • Filmi 7
  • Music journalism 8
  • Producers 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


Abida Parveen has rendered her voice to Ghazal, Kafi, Qawwali and also Classical and Regional Music.

In poetry, the ghazal (Persian: غزل‎; Turkish: gazel) is a poetic form consisting of couplets which share a rhyme and a refrain. Each line must share the same meter. Etymologically, the word literally refers to "the mortal cry of a gazelle". The animal is called Ghizaal, from which the English word gazelles stems, or Kastori haran (where haran refers to deer) in Urdu. Ghazals are traditionally expressions of love, separation and loneliness, for which the gazelle is an appropriate image. A ghazal can thus be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation of the lover and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. The form is ancient, originating in 10th century Persian verse. It is derived from the Persian qasida. The structural requirements of the ghazal are more stringent than those of most poetic forms traditionally written in English. In its style and content it is a genre which has proved capable of an extraordinary variety of expression around its central theme of love and separation. It is considered by many to be one of the principal poetic forms the Persian civilization offered to the eastern Islamic world.

The ghazals can be sung both for men and women, as an expression of love/beauty.

The ghazal spread into South Asia in the 12th century under the influence of the new Islamic Sultanate courts and Sufi mystics. Exotic to the region, as is indicated by the very sounds of the name itself when properly pronounced as ġazal. Although the ghazal is most prominently a form of Urdu poetry, today, it has influenced the poetry of many languages. Most Ghazal singers are trained in classical music and sing in either Khyal or Thumri.

Notable composers and performers

Ahmed Rushdi is an award winning playback singer


The Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah was one of the most important patrons of Qawwali and is widely credited for its cultural advancement.

Qawwali (Urdu: قوٌالی‎) is the devotional music of the Chishti Sufis. Qawwali is a vibrant musical tradition that stretches back more than 700 years in India. Originally performed mainly at Sufi shrines throughout the India, it has also gained mainstream popularity. Qawwali music received international exposure through the work of the late Aziz Mian, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and sabri brothers, largely due to several releases on the Real World label, followed by live appearances at WOMAD festivals. Listeners, and often artists themselves are transported to a state of wajad, a trance-like state where they feel at one with God, generally considered to be the height of spiritual ecstasy in Sufism. The roots of Qawwali can be traced back to 8th century Persia, however, Qawwali in the form we know it today was essentially created by Amir Khusrau in the late 13th century.

During the first major migration from Persia, in the 11th century, the musical tradition of Sama migrated to South Asia, Turkey and Uzbekistan. Rumi and his Mevlana order of Sufism have been the propagators of Sama in Central Asia. Amir Khusrau of the Chisti order of Sufis is credited with fusing the Persian and South Asian musical traditions, to create Qawwali as well as the classical music tradition. The word "Sama" is used (or is the preferred name) in Central Asia and Turkey, for forms very similar to Qawwali while in Pakistan, the formal name used for a session of Qawwali is "Mehfil-e-Sama".



Faiz Ali Faiz, a qawwali artist live in concert

A group of qawwali musicians, called Humnawa in Urdu, typically consists of eight or nine men—women are usually excluded from traditional Muslim music as respectable women are traditionally prohibited from singing in public gatherings.

Notable composers and performers


Pakistani Sufi Saieen Zahoor.

There is a large number of hamd and naat singers in Pakistan. This is a type of Islamic religious music where poetical verses of the love for God (Allah) is expressed. Some of the most famous artists include Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, along with his nephew Rahat Fateh Ali KhanThere are sabri brothers from karachi


'Hamd' is also used extensively in Christian religious music from Pakistan and all over the world where people from this region are found.'Hamd' is not the exclusive domain of any religion. As pointed out – it denotes praise to God, it is more extensively used in the Muslim world. It is usually used in conjunction with the Sanna and referred to as 'Hamd – o – Sanna'.


The dafli, also popularly known as daf, dappler or tambourine, is a must for weddings. Made of wooden ring with a double row of bells and a playing surface with a 10" diameter, our dafli is a perfect accompaniment to the dholki. The pleasant sound of the dafli will elevate the tempo and mood of all celebrations. Easy to play with no beforehand practice required – with these daflis anyone can add to the music played in weddings and other celebrations.


A sitar workshop in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Classical music of Pakistan is based on the traditional music of South Asia which was patronized by various empires that ruled the region and gave birth to several genres of classic music including the Klasik and raag. The arrangement of rhythm (lai) in a cycle is known as taal. Improvisation plays a major role during a performance.

The major genres of classical music in Pakistan are dhrupad and khayal. Dhrupad is approaching extinction in Pakistan despite vocalists like Ustad Badar uz Zaman, Ustad Hafeez Khan and Ustad Afzal Khan have managed to keep this art form alive. Khayal is the most popular genre of classical music in Pakistan as is also enjoyed with much enthusiasm in Afghanistan.

There are many families from gharanas of classical music who inherited the music from their forefathers and are still performing. Some famous gharanas are: Qwaal Bacha gharana (Ut Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Rahat Fateh Ali khan belongs to this gharana), and Patyala gharana (Shafaqat Amanat Ali Khan belongs to this gharana). Number of other gharanas are present in Pakistan who serves classical music. Some classical musicians like Ut Badar uz Zaman do not belong to any famous gharana but has served enormously to classical music. The legendary sitar player Mohammad Sharif Khan Poonchhwaley belongs to Poonch gharana of sitar.

Shaukat Hussain, Tari Khan and Tafo Khan have been exponents of classical tabla playing from Pakistan. Talib Hussain was one of the last remaining pakhawaj players of Pakistan and was a recognized practitioner of the Punjab style.


A trio of Pakistani folk singers performing at a local gathering

Pakistani folk music deals with subjects surrounding daily life in less grandiose terms than the love and emotion usually contained in its traditional and classical counterpart. In Pakistan, each province has its own variation of popular folk music.

Pakistan has created many famous singers in this discipline such as the late Alam Lohar, who was very influential in the period of 1940 until 1979: he created the concept of "jugni" and this has been a folk song ever since, and he sang heer, sufiana kalaams, mirza, sassi and many more famous folk stories. Other famous folk singers include Sain Zahoor and Alam Lohar from Punjab and Allan Fakir and Mai Bhaghi from Sindh, Akhtar Chanal Zahri from Baluchistan and Zarsanga from North-West Frontier Province who is considered the queen of Pashto folk music.


The music of Balochistan province is very rich and full of varieties due to the many different types of languages which are spoken in the province, including Balochi, Pashto, Brahui, Persian and Saraiki.


A Punjabi dhol band, performing at a wedding in Multan

Music from the Punjab province includes many different varieties.


Potohari has a rich tradition of poetry recital accompanied by sitar, ghara, tabla, harmonium and dholak. These poems (potohari sher) are often highly lyrical and somewhat humorous and secular in nature, though religious sher are also recited.[1]


Music from Sindh province is sung in Sindhi, and is generally performed in either the "Baits" or "Waee" styles.

Notable Sindhi singers


The predominant language found in Pakistan's Northern Areas has an extensive oral history which dates back several thousand years. With the increase in tourism to Pakistan's Northern Areas and increased domestic as well as international awareness of the local folk music, the Shinha folk traditions have managed to stay alive and vibrant. A dardic language with considerable Persian influence is found in Pakistan's Chitral region in the North West of the country. Khowar folk music had considerable patronage particularly during the rule of the Mehtars in the last century. Folk music in this region has remained relatively pure and unscathed by modern influences due to the relative isolation of this district. The arrival of many refugees from the adjacent Nuristan province of Afghanistan and the subsequent increase in commercial activity in Chitrali bazaars allowed this local form of music to flourish in the past few decades.


Saraiki language is spoken by 13.9 million people in southern Punjab and northern Sindh. Atta Ullah Essa Khelvi Khan is one of the most famous Saraiki singers in Pakistan, hailing from Mianwali.


The Khattak Dance, a swift martial arts sword-dance performed by Pashtuns in Pakistan's Northern Areas

Pashto music is commonly found in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in Pakistan's major urban centres such as Karachi, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Sialkot and Multan, genres include Tappa, Charbeta, Neemkai, Loba, Shaan and Badala.


Persian is spoken mainly in the North West of Pakistan but there are also considerable Persian speaking inhabitants in Pakistan's major urban centres of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.


Music from Hazara Division is sung in Hindko, and is generally performed in either the "Maheyay" or "sher" styles.


Pakistani music in the 21st century revitalized itself.


Pop music really started in the South Asian region with the famous playback singer Ahmed Rushdi's song ‘Ko Ko Korina’ in 1966.[2] Composed by Sohail Rana, the song was a blend of 60s bubblegum pop, rock and roll twist music and Pakistani film music. This genre would later be termed as filmi pop. Paired with Runa Laila, the singer is considered the pioneering father of pop music, mostly hip-hop and disco, in South Asia.

Following Rushdi's success, Christian bands specialising in jazz started performing at various night clubs and hotel lobbies[2] in Karachi, Hyderabad and Lahore. They would usually sing either famous American jazz hits or cover Rushdi's songs. Rushdi sang playback hits along with Laila until the Bangladesh Liberation War when East Pakistan was declared an independent state. Laila, being a Bengali, decided to leave for the new-found Bangladesh.

Nazia Hassan in 1981, became the first playback singer to release an album. Her first album was Disco Deewane. The album broke sales records in Pakistan and India and even topped the charts in the West Indies, Latin America and Russia.

In 2013 Atif Aslam became the first Pakistani pop singer to perform at The O2 Arena London twice[3][4][5] & was also named in 2012 among top performers of Dubai alongside Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias, Il Divo, Gotye, Evanescence & Swedish House Mafia.[6]

Pakistani Pop Singer Ali Sameer Hot Music Show Live in Islamabad


Shallum Asher Xavier from Pakistani rock band, Fuzon, performing live at a concert

Rock music has become very popular in Pakistan since the 1980s.

Hip hop

Pakistani hip hop is a blend of traditional Pakistani musical elements with modern hip hop music.


Pakistan's film industry known as "Lollywood" is based in Lahore and has now extended to Karachi. The film industry experienced a major halt after 2000 but is currently reviving with all credit to ShoMan and Waar.

Music journalism

Music journalism in Pakistan has grown over the years.


Music production seems to have stayed in the shadows in the Pakistan music industry.

  • Badar uz Zaman – Originally a Classical singer yet worked a lot in the fusion of old music with new one.
  • S.T.T. – a certified Audio Engineer from Berklee College of Music. Originally from Toronto Canada.
  • Zeejah Fazli - a producer, festival organizer, event director, musician & entrepreneur involved in festival management and cultural exchange programs and has produced Music Mela Festival 2014 onwards.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Socio-political History of Modern Pop Music in Pakistan".  
  3. ^ "Atif Aslam Rocked the O2!". Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  4. ^ "Atif Aslam Dhamaka London concert". Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  5. ^ "Bollywood Showstoppers Press conference". Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  6. ^ "World class live events and concerts on the rise at DWTC". Retrieved 18 January 2013. 

External links

  • (French) Audio clips: Traditional music of Pakistan. Musée d'Ethnographie de Genève. Accessed November 25, 2010.
  • BBC Radio 3 Audio (45 minutes): The Nizamuddin shrine in Delhi. Accessed November 25, 2010.
  • BBC Radio 3 Audio (45 minutes): A mahfil Sufi gathering in Karachi. Accessed November 25, 2010.
  • BBC Radio 3 Audio (60 minutes): Music from the Sufi Shrines of Pakistan. Accessed November 25, 2010.
  • HBP in Pakistan
  • History on Pakistani Film music
  • Pakistani Songs
  • The Pioneers of Rock Music Videos
  • Fresh Pakistani Music With Lyrics
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