Very interestingly, guitar is considered as the most widely played musical instrument even though it is extremely time consuming and difficult to acquire mastery over it. Also, guitar is an expensive instrument.
It is surprising to realize why flute is not considered the most popular musical instrument considering its comparatively low price and wider availability.
Flute works fine for all moods including romantic, pensive, and sad. It has a soothing and melodious sound. Wonder how spiritually alleviating it would have been to listen to King David’s (Peace Be Upon Him – PBUH) psalms played by him in lush green surroundings. According to the Holy Quran the birds and mountains used to unite with David in ushering praise to Allah the most beneficent and the most merciful. Morning bliss, sublime music and nobility of the message would have surely moved the entire environment to comply with the ultimate truth. Wonder why King David (PBUH) had to resort to hurling a stone with his sling to put
an end to Goliath’s arrogance when his flute would have been more effective. Surely it was the fault of Goliath to resort to the false strength; or maybe it was ordained for him to be hit on the forehead and not on the heart. Is there a difference between mind and heart?
Viewers of PTV during its golden period experienced many a joyful programs. One of them was when Ustad Khamisu Khan played Alghoza. It used to feel the world connected to the sound of music and everything synced to the rhythm of the tune. Mystical, breathtaking, par excellence, magical and soulful are some of the words to describe Khamisu’s art on Alghoza. It used to feel as the entire world was at a standstill, and at the same time, it seemed everything was flowing to the tune of music, a perfect harmony and synchronicity with no measure of time.
Alghoza is a generic term for various types of twin-fluted wind instruments believed to be originating from Punjab and later spreading across other regions in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces. It might be the Mehran belt, where all the four provinces meet, or may be Thar from
where the instrument seemed to have originated. There is something with the instrument that makes it feel as if it always belonged to Sindh; Khamisu’s touch and class made the instrument his very own.
Alghoza is also called ‘nai’, ‘jori’ ‘beenoon’ or ‘ngoza’. It consists of a pair of segments of bamboo or wood, drilled one of eight holes (drone), and the other twelve (melody). Both flutes
are played while holding them parallel at the same time by the musician breathing his soul into them. The lengths of the flutes vary according to the cultural or musical needs. The best part about Alghoza is that continuous sound is generated by breathing into the two flutes simultaneously in rapid manner i.e., quick recapturing of breath in order to continue with the stream of air to create music. The music bounces like ricochet of a stone on the water surface.
The way alghoza is normally decorated by the Sindhi musicians in colorful manner also require a separate study. Khamisu’s ajrak (shawl with unique Sindhi block printing – can be called Sindhi people’s signature shawl) and colorful turban used to reflect a regal outlook. The inner piece used to be seen clearly on his face – must have been due to sense of accomplishment and over
Once a PTV program moderator, prior to Khamisu’s live performance in a folk music segment, asked him to narrate to the audience his experience of playing Alghoza abroad. Khamisu narrated a very interesting
story that when he played Alghoza the people got really amazed not because of the
attractiveness of the music but since it seemed he was playing Alghoza without breaking his breath. People in fact asked him how he could manage to play Alghoza without breaking breath, which seems magical and an impossible feat. He replied that it takes a lot of practice to inhale from nose, considering the amount of air required to blow both flutes, and maintaining the continuity of the tune. At the same time one needs also to maintain the tune and adhere to the ebbs and flows of the symphony.
Other popular contemporary of Khamisu Khan worthy of a mention was Misri Khan Jamali. Now Khamisu’s son Akbar Khamisu Khan is carrying the legacy of his father who is rightly remembered as the king of Alghoza. In Urdu they are called ‘Alghoza Nawaz’ or the ones who conduct Alghoza. God knows they dedicated their lives to playing Alghoza while reaching new heights in the craft.
In Punjab, musicians use Alghoza as a folk instrument particularly to play traditional music such as Jugni, Jind Mahi, and Mirza. Recently it has been observed that Alghoza has re-emerged as a popular choice among UK-based Punjabi folk musicians for making contemporary Bhangra (an up-beat type of Punjabi dance) music. Many ragas are played on Alghoza including bageshiri, asa and tilang etc.
Khamisu would have surely achieved international acclaim if he would have been given a little bit of patronage by the society. Keeping in view his level of excellence, he can only be
compared with Sir James Galway. He was absolutely an icon. The disturbing part is
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that not much has been written on alghoza or Khamisu Khan apart from few of the clippings on YouTube featuring Ustad Khamisu himself and his son Akbar there is no clue of the glorious era when Khamisu adorned the TV screen. It is a relief to know that Khamisu’s son did not let down the name of his father and we
still have a chance to give Khamisu his due in recognition, appreciation and compensation.
- Ustad Muhammad Juman Khan: A Tribute (thepakistanforum.net)
- Sitar and Tabla by Ustad Imrat Khan and Ustad Sabir Khan Darbari Ektaal (tonbak.wordpress.com)