by Niala Mohammad
“Art is Like Water for the Fire of Fundamentalism”-Khumariyaan the Band
As I sat on in the grand foyer of the Kennedy Center, overlooking the Potomac River, a feeling of pride and nostalgia overcame me as I watched a group of young Pashtun men dilute the image of extremism placed upon their people. The crowd was filled with people of all creeds and races, clapping, dancing and cheering as Khumariyaan intoxicated the audience with their Pashto folk-tunes.
Peshawar’s hyper-folk boy band Khumariyaan (English translation-The Intoxicators) performed at the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts in Washington, DC last night-kicking off their month-long tour in the United States. Hundreds gathered to watch Khumariyaan perform live along with Moroccan Berber funk band named Ribab Fusion as a part of a program created by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, in partnership with New England Foundation for the Arts.
Unlike other Peshawari Boy bands, Khumariyaan is purely instrumental. That’s right-no vocals, only beat! It consists of four members; Farhan Bogra, Aamer Shaique, Shiraz Khan and Sparlay Rawail whose purpose is to revitalize traditional Pashtun music with a modern edge.
The resurgence of traditional music, instruments and poetry has not only preserved Pashtun culture and language but serves as a defense against extremism. Lead guitarist, Sparlay Rawail told VOA Deewa, “The band was formed in 2008, in times when many great artists were being persecuted or forced into exile. Its sole purpose is to work on the evolution of folk music, to make it relevant in the contemporary times. Music for us is something that is hardwired into our brains as human beings and we try to exploit that dance-along feeling that one gets when listening to a basic beautiful melody. When it’s pure and basic, it can turn up, add a bit of accentuation and you’ve got something that the new Pashtun generation loves. Back home, and everywhere, art is like water for the fire of fundamentalism.”
Music is purely a passion for these young, educated gentlemen who take their careers as seriously as they take their music.
Farhan Bogra, who plays the rabab and sitar is from Thana, Malakand. Perhaps the funniest of his band members, Farhan is a foodie who enjoys snapping candid pictures of his band members. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Institute of Management Sciences and works as the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa provincial coordinator of Institute for the Preservation of Art and Culture (IPAC), Pakistan.
Aamer Shafique, the guitarist is from Swabi. He is perhaps best described as a kind-hearted ball of energy and enthusiasm. It is not a surprise that he works in works in disaster management bringing positive energy to communities in distress. Aamer works with the Provincial Disaster Management Authority on a World Bank funded project in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. He has two masters’ degrees in development studies from the Institute of Management Sciences.
Shiraz khan, the zerbaghali/drum player is from the renowned Naway Kalay, Peshawar. However, instead of picking up a squash racket like the other predecessors of his village…he picked up a drum or rather a zerbaghali! Shiraz is a quiet, green eyed, youngling of the group. He works with an NGO called Basic Education for Awareness, Reforms and Empowerment (BEFARe) on a USAID project in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Shiraz is currently pursuing his Master’s in Business Administration from the Institute of Management Sciences.
Lead guitarist and ghungroo percussionist, Sparlay Rawail holds Bachelors in Architecture from National College of Arts (NCA) in Rawalpindi. He is a Peshawar native whose father is from Mardan and mother is from Karak. This charismatic hipster has dance moves that will leave you in awe and hair that will makes most ladies jealous. Sparlay teaches architecture and communication & cultural studies at NCA in Rawalpindi and works as a freelance architect.
Together they form Khumariyaan, a unique, modern-traditionalist band of musicians whose mission is to counter extremism whilst promoting Pashtun culture.
Link to their performance at the Kennedy Center: