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The Arts, Music and Film

qawwali singers, Pakistan Television, Pakistani films, Punjabi bhangra, Lollywood

The classical music tradition in Pakistan traces its roots to the 13th-century poet and musician Amir Khusru, who composed the earliest ragas, the traditional rhythmic form. To play the ragas, Muslim musicians invented the sitar, a long guitar-like stringed instrument, and the tabla, a small pair of hand drums.

Qawwali, a form of devotional song, arose as part of the Sufi (Islamic religious sect) tradition. This rich vocal tradition is based on melodic and free-rhythmic song-poems and classical musical forms. It is traditionally performed at the shrines of Sufi saints, but today qawwali singers also perform for major secular events. Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan won international popularity in the late 20th century by infusing qawwali performances with new form and style. Other traditional musical forms—including the Punjabi bhangra, the Sindhi juhumar, and the Pashtun khattack—have also acquired new forms and continue to be popular for dancing. Punjabi, Pashto, and Sindhi folk songs are popular in rural Pakistan. Modern Pakistani musical groups and singers have introduced new forms of pop music based on traditional melodies.

Most Pakistanis prefer and enjoy songs from Pakistani and Indian movies. These songs are commonly played on radio and television. A synthesis of musical scores from movies, traditional folk music, and popular Western music is gaining popularity.

The film industry of Pakistan, known as Lollywood, is concentrated in Lahore. Most Pakistani movies are long, melodramatic love stories with plenty of songs. The film industry is often regulated and censored by the government. Films must follow the conventions of Islamic law, and the showing of physical contact such as kissing is prohibited. In the mid-1970s the industry produced about 150 movies a year, but since then the number has declined. In the 1980s the market for Pakistani films shrunk as a result of restrictions imposed by the military regime of Muhammad Zia ul-Haq and the availability of smuggled videotapes of Indian and Western movies.

Television became a major cultural influence in Pakistan in the 1980s, when the state-controlled network, Pakistan Television, attained national reach. It aired both Pakistani and American shows. In recent years satellite and cable television services have significantly increased access to international networks offering many different cultural and political perspectives.



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