Saturday, October 24, 2009
Karachi: How does one project a feeling? This would be an empirical question to beset any writer, musician and even an illustrator.
The feeling of Sufism, thus says German Writer/Composer/Musician Peter Pannke, must be experienced first-hand to know how the change comes from within to create an embellishment on the outside.
Peter Pannke, who has travelled the world in search of ‘music of the soul’, first came to Pakistan in the 1970s. His association with eastern, oriental music though is more than just skin-deep. He was schooled in the Dhrupad Style with the Mallik Gharana, and later with the Dagar Gharana for his Dhrupad music education. A man of multiple talents, Pannke paid his respects to his masters by not only utilising the teachings of singing and music in his own compositions which have today formed a bridge between the west and the east, but by also authoring books about these musicians of the east.
“Music is not just entertainment, but a connection” says Pannke. The beginnings of this connection date back to the 11th Century with a group of people, the Troubadours, who could be termed the western equivalent of Sufis. They used music as mode of connection between the people. However, the Church did not approve of this and promptly had them removed. Today, while their music remains unknown, their legacy in the form of a few portraits remains and it is this legacy that Pannke believes he now has to follow.
The word ‘Troubadours’, says Pannke, comes from the Arab word of Tarab which means ecstasy from listening to poetry.
“The Qawwali of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan made people think, sit up, and notice a facet of Pakistan, and made them think differently” he says of the connecting power wielded by music. “In Germany, when the politicians tried to keep the people separated, manipulating figures and putting up a wall, a singer from East Germany came to West Germany and reached out to the people through music, and started a dialogue between people” Pannke quotes as an example.
Having played with local Sufi celebrities like Pappu Saien, Pannke has also used the medium of film in an attempt to capture the essence of Sufiism.
“I have seen many films made on Sufiism, mostly because many German filmmakers come to me to ask me about the place and the people, but they cannot capture the feeling that is present in a Faqir since he is made from the inside out. For a film, scenes of people gathering, dancing, playing music is much more attractive, this, however, is but a small part of a Malang’s, or a Faqir’s life” he concludes.
The use of music as a communication bridge is slowly being recognised in Germany. A large minority of Turkish immigrants settling in Germany over the recent years has given small closed societies within a larger German society. Sufi traditions being strong in Turkey, the music has helped shape the way people think of the German Turks.
“The new generation is coming up with fusion music which helps people interact with the Turkish part of Germany”.
A celebrated musician and a sort of go-to-guy for Pakistan and Sufiism, Peter Pannke was tasked with orchestrating for a Sufi music festival in Berlin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pakistan. In the festival, he met a photographer and together they decided to do a book on the Sufis in Pakistan. Pannke wrote for the book and it was published in German. While promises were made to bring it to Pakistan, it was not till 2009 that the plan materialised.
Currently it is being translated into English and simultaneously, some 32 photographs from the book will be on display at the Goethe-Institut for a month.
Given the recent worsening of the law and order situation of Pakistan, Pannke admitted that it would be difficult to present an alternate picture of Pakistan with all the media channels asphyxiated on the terror condition prevalent in the country.
He, however, remains hopeful that the music will help people think of the beautiful shrines, the music, and the landscape.
[Pictures from: Amazon Germany]