Folk artistes are a bridge between our nations: Pakistani singer Arif Lohar

By Jaideep Sarin,

Chandigarh : Folk artistes from India and Pakistan are a “bridge” between the countries and try and improve bilateral relations when things become “sour”, says popular Pakistani folk singer Arif Lohar, who featured in the “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” biopic.

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Not only has he been able to continue the folk tradition from his legendary father Alam Lohar, but has even popularised it on the youth of the sub-continent and its diaspora. With his Jugni duet with Pakistani singer Meesha Shafi for Coke Studio topping the charts in 2010 and the “Tu Bhaag Milkha” title song, Lohar continues to charm music lovers across generations.

“You cannot say that a particular time belongs to a certain style (of singing). Over the centuries, the folk tradition has continued. I am blessed that I am instrumental in continuing this great tradition,” the 50-year-old Lohar told IANS in an interview while on a visit here.

“Lok fankaar rabbon paida hunda hai. Ihnu koi academy nahin banaundi (Folk artists are god-sent, no academy creates them),” said Lohar, who speaks in Punjabi and spends most of his time in India these days.

“I have no idea how many times I have been to India. Whenever I am called, I come. I have got a lot of love from all generations in India and Pakistan and from people settled in other parts of the world. I get a lot of love and respect in India. That is one reason why I keep coming here regularly. Every moment here is yaadgar (memorable),” said the portly singer who has acted in over 45 Pakistani films, including in lead roles.

“Fankaar mitti da hee hunda hai. Eh ne jaa ke pyaar pesh karna hunda hai. Log sannu saare hee bade pyare milde ne. Eh saariyan roohaan jehdiyan rab ne paida kittiyan hai, eh sab badiyan pyariyaan ne. (Artists come from the soil and spread love all around. We meet a lot of loving people. All the people that god has created are beautiful),” Lohar said, adding with a short poem:

“Pyar di khatir rab ne saari khed rachayee,

aiwein bandeyan ne aapas de vich nafrat payee,

ucha naam hai pyar da kul Alam kehenda,

jo beejenga duniya che, oho wadna painda

(God created mankind to spread love but man created divisions and hatred. What we will sow, so shall we reap).”

Lohar said artists from India and Pakistan are a “bridge” between the two countries. “Whenever the water (India-Pakistan relations) get sour, we come to make it sweet. Artists try their best to do this to improve the relations better. They are a bridge between both sides. We get a lot of respect and love here. We share this respect and love,” he said.

Lohar, who had a “very simple” childhood in his Aach Gosh village in Gujrat district of Pakistani Punjab and was a “very naughty” child, attributed his success to his legendary father Alam Lohar’s blessings.

“My father used to tell me that even after he dies, his blessings would follow me everywhere. I could not understand his words at that time. Now I can feel and experience what he used to say. Main apne baap di fakiri hasil kitti. Mainu badshahat nahin si chahidee (I have inherited piety from my father. I never wanted to be a king),” he said.

He pointed out that he used to copy his father’s singing style. “When he died in a road accident in 1979, I started going to villages across Pakistan to sing folk songs. My father was so popular that thousands used to converge in villages where he performed. I feel happy that I am able to continue the tradition started by him,” Arif said.

“Wherever I go, I try to do justice to my ‘ma boli’ (mother tongue); my father did so throughout his life. I am continuing the tradition,” he said.

Lohar, who plays the ‘chimta’ (tongs), says that the traditional musical instrument had tremendous history attached to it.

“Chimta is a traditional instrument. It is the symbol of a ‘fakir’ (mendicant). Iron is always used for weapons. This same iron is used by the fakir through the chimta to spread peace. It is actually made from two iron swords,” said Lohar, who belongs to a family of traditional Mughal lohars (ironsmiths) who used to make weapons.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])