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29 Nov

Playing it up in Peshawar

Khumariyaan is fast becoming a very well known name in Pakistan but what everyone may not know about them is that the band is very socially conscientious and can often be seen contributing to society in one way or the other.

The band’s latest contribution came in the form of a visit to the The Shaheed Haroon Academy School, which is the only school in Peshawar that offers education to street children free of cost. We caught up with band member Farhan Bogra, who has recently returned from the US and Mexico after participating in an art residency program.

“Shaheed Haroon was a young boy who passed away in an accident and his father, Shakeel Rehman, founded the school to overcome the grief that had consumed him,” Bogra shared over a telephone call with us. “This is the first school for street children in KPK. There is no charity that helps them; everything is paid for by Mr. Shakeel himself from whatever he earns from his job at Oracle.” Currently, the school is providing education to 50 students and has been in the running for the last one year.

Bogra ran into Mr. Shakeel in America during his art residency program. “I was very touched by his story. The number of students that he has is increasing and so are his expenditures. I had promised him that we will visit his school to show support as soon as I got the chance.”

The band was thrilled to find many success stories when they finally met the children. “Street children have only heard abuses their whole lives or someone telling them to ‘run away’ or ‘get lost.’ They live tough lives so it’s difficult to control them and make them behave. There were some students who didn’t even know their real names when they first came to the school.” Within six months of teaching and training, he shared, the children had learnt to behave and had become disciplined.

 

Khumariyaan

Khumariyaan take the stage at the JF Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC.

 

Bogra informed that the band then spent the day performing for the children. “We talked about culture with them, educated them about musical instruments. The children were seeing a live performance for the first time in their lives. The children also danced for the first time. I’m so happy that I made them dance. Who knows what seeds were planted that day.”

This is unfortunately the case for many children in Peshawar, since music is already a scarce form of entertainment as it is looked down upon by many people. “Many people here aren’t educated so they don’t understand the importance of music.”

But for Bogra, this was an important cause because he understands the real value of music and how it could impact the mind of a child. “Music is something that gives you hope and is a medium to generate creativity,” he expanded, which is why the band has been involved in playing music for children in schools and orphanages long before visiting the Shaheed Haroon Academy. “We try to bring some smiles to their faces.”

Bogra explained the mentality in Peshawar towards music through a concept which he tried to apply in his hometown, something he had learnt in America.  As part of the art residency program, musicians would visit hospitals with psychiatrists and music therapists to study the effect of music on the brains of patients. They found lower levels of stress and controlled heart rate in patients who had been treated with music.

“I had decided that I would try this activity when I went back to Peshawar. So I went to a big cancer hospital and presented them this idea. The first comment I got was ‘Doctors kya kahein gey keh yahan mirasi log ayein hain’. I said excuse me, we aren’t bringing dancers or putting on a concert, this is a form of treatment!”

Music in Peshawar is considered to be a poor man’s form of livelihood. “People get shocked when I speak in English. They say ‘He’s a musician but he’s educated?’ Musicians are generally taken for granted here, it’s not a well respected profession.”

As the discussion was winding up, Bogra also added that families don’t even want their daughters to get married to musicians. We jokingly asked how the band has managed to find wives then. “We were lucky that we found our wives ourselves,” laughed Bogra as we concluded the conversation.

Manal Khan

The author is Deputy Editor at Something Haute who has studied film and journalism from SZABIST. Will be found at the gym if not in the office.