Late at night at an overbooked venue in the heart of Islamabad, Pakistan, a young audience dances wildly to the beat of a Peshawar-based instrumental band. Some seem to have fallen into a trance while others clap and whistle enthusiastically. On stage, guitarist Aamer Shafiq spins his head as the song keeps picking up its pace. If it wasn’t for the Western attire of the audience, the concert could almost resemble an ecstatic Sufi ceremony. The band Khumariyaan’s music is a combination of the rubab, a traditional lute-like instrument indigenous to Central Asia, and guitars, creating an intoxicating, fast-paced fusion of the East and the West.
Not too long ago, all of this would have been unimaginable Peshawar. The Pashto language music scene in the city was almost nonexistent, and the Taliban had banned music for many areas, forcing traditional musicians to flee the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The rest of the country listened to mostly Bollywood and Urdu language songs, showing little interest in this region.
Enter Khumariyaan. Their blend of contemporary music with traditional Pashtun influences has taken Pakistan by storm in recent months, giving hope to the youth from the country’s marginalised and militancy-hit northwest.
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