By Abbas Jalbani
NOT so long ago, Balochi poetry used to be based on music and had a direct relationship with the masses. Most of the classical poets were also singers and they sang their own verses as well as others’ creations on the beat of a tamboora accompanied by melodies played on the suroz, a kind of sarangi. Whether it was a wedding ceremony, a date crop harvest or preparation for a tribal war, it was considered incomplete without the singing of poetry and the audience drew inspiration from the verses they heard.
Wandering minstrels used to roam across the length and breadth of what is today Balochistan. Nomad tribes hosted them for a day or two and listened to their verses in night-long sittings. The poet could entertain his audience for a week by singing long epics and romances, some of which contained as many as 3,000 lines, without repeating any of them. The history, genealogy and culture of a tribe or the entire Baloch people were preserved in the poetry. That was why people identified themselves with it.
This link was limited if not broken with the emergence of written poetry in the early 20th century. Modern Baloch poets abandoned classic forms like sher, zahirok, saut and sifat and emulated foreign genres like ghazal and poem. Their subjects included new political and social realities, particularly after the creation of Pakistan and Balochistan’s annexation to it, which the people took some time to understand. Moreover, the poets espoused a middle class mentality not found among the masses.
In the middle of the century, a new breed of popular poets appeared with the recording of Balochi songs, first on gramophone records and then on audio cassettes, which became popular in Karachi, at that time the biggest Baloch city. The new popular poetry ranged from moving lyrics of Ahmed Jigar to simple and sometimes absurd rhyming of Bhooral Qasarqandi. After Noor Mohammad Nooral revived the singing of classical poetry in the 1990s, the Balochi music scene shifted from Karachi to Mekran and from unrecognized poets to established ones. Soon prominent poets like Qazi Mubarak, Murad Sahir, Bashir Baidar, Muneer Momin and Mumtaz Yousuf gained a much wider audience and became a household name.
The revival of people’s interest in poetry is evident from the fact that most Balochi books published in 2004 are poetic anthologies and four of them are collections of those verses which have already been popularized by singers: Alhan and Tooti Lisan contain songs of different poets sung by late Noor Khan Bizenjo and Arif Baloch and Ubetkain Sherani Ubetkain Zimr and Daratka Mah Damkan are anthologies of recorded verses of Munir Momin and Irshad Pervaz. Momin is one of the most promising poets and has managed to create a place for himself in the list of major Balochi poets of today. Pervaz belongs to the young generation and mostly writes songs for audio cassettes.
Do Tramp Darya is the collection of ghazals by Doli Baig, an illiterate bard whose verses are so captivating that he is considered one of the major ghazal writers of Balochi literature. Other ghazal writers whose collections were published in 2004 include Naseem Akram (Rangani Ghubar) and Abid Askani (Surmagen Bazar).
Mirjangi-o-Mirzangi is a fusion of the classic and modern by Askani which contains a poetic dialogue on social and political conditions of the Baloch people spread over 200 pages. Abdul Majid Gwadari, who employs classic diction in modern forms and whose poetry is imbibed with nationalist feelings, came up with Sosanain Geewar. Siddiq Salimi is a young poet from Iranian Balochistan who represents the neo-classical poetry as some of his verses are based on traditional forms. His Bukcha is one of the major books of 2004. Dard-i-Dastan also contains verses in traditional form by another poet from Iranian Balochistan, Abdul Qadir Shahwani.
On the other hand, Mujib Mujahid specializes in poetry, particularly free verse. The year saw the publication of his collection Saz-o-Awaz. Other anthologies which came into the market in 2004 include Yar Mohammad Sakim’s Sitk, Ali Sabir’s Azmaan Bastagain Barf, Malik Mohammad Kalmati’s Trongal and Kifayat Qarar’s Zulm-i-Jambar.
The prose works published in 2004 include Sachanon Sohatain, Tappiyen Goarbam, Bartaap, Tareekh-i-Taha Nafar-i-Kird and Badshah.
Sachanon is a collection of articles on the works of veteran poet, historian, lexicographer and novelist Syed Hashmi by different writers, compiled by Saba Dashtyari. It also contains criticism on him by G.R. Mulla. Tappiyen is the collection of short stories by Hafiz Ahsanabadi and Bartaap that of TV and radio plays by Dr Ali Dost Baloch. Tareekh is the translation of Plekhanov’s book on the role of the individual in history by Dr Shah Mohammad Mari. Badshah is the translation of Machiavelli’s The Prince rendered by Dr Fazl Khaliq. Wahid Buzdar came up with a dictionary of sociological terms, Rajmanzantig Galband.
The most encouraging development of 2004 was the establishment of the Syed Hashmi Reference Library. A brainchild of Saba Dashtyari, it is a resource centre to facilitate research on Balochi language, literature and culture. Baloch writers and literature lovers not only generously contributed towards the construction of its building in a fruit orchard in the Malir area of Karachi, they also donated around 8,000 books to it. This shows that despite all odds, Balochi literature does still have a future.