Pakistan Reader# 250, 11 November 2021
On 8 November, Zulfikar Ali or more famously known as Pappu Sain passed away in Lahore. He was Dhol master of his own making who performed his spiritual services through Dhol performances at the shrine of Hazrat Shah Jamal in Lahore.
Pappu Sain and Sufism
Specific to Punjab province of Pakistan, Dhol over the centuries has been a familial tradition as matter of faith for the followers of Shah Jamal, Pappu Sain was one of the great flag bearers of Sufi tradition and an epitome in himself with his simplicity and reverence to Dhol as medium to ecstasy. A mystic himself for his fans, he had the aura to Hasrat bring sama (ecstasy caused by listening to devotional or Sufi music) with his saj’ (rhythmic metre). He hailed from a family who had been performing their Sufi spiritual services since generations. Without any formal education or training, he excelled in the art of Dhol playing and won international acclaim, however Pappu Sain never performed for commercial reasons. He considered that Dhol is not just beating the drum but it is a medium to purify one’s heart in the service of God. He started playing Dhol at age of 12 and followed his heart and dedicated his whole life to share transcendental musical instinct with followers of God. For his contribution he was even awarded Tamgha-i-Imtiaz, highest civilian honor of Pakistan.
Lahore: A city of saints
The shrines of various saints in Lahore are thronged by people from all parts of Pakistan to pay their salaam (homage) and mannat (oblation), irrespective of class and creed, the shrines act as a catalyst for collective masti (transport of joy) and the Dholiya becomes formulist with his music. The Dholiya is surrounded by devotees of saint and the performance lasts for hours, the most magnificent moment comes when frenzied barefoot whirling of the devotees create a trance-inducing effect on the audience, the moment is collectively called as dhamaal (capering of a qalandar) on the beats of Dholiya. Such was the stature of Pappu Sain, and it is great loss to the not just Pakistan but to the whole Sufistic tradition. The shrines then become public in their accessibility whereby people resonate and cocreate a space through music above the barrier of language and even religion. Such Dhol masters and their art needs to acknowledged for the kind of public service they do in creating peace in innumerable ways.
The deep music connections in South Asia
The hunch and neck swirling to percussion instrument all across South Asia are hypnotic enough to make people feel in communion. The Dhol played by Sufistic Dholiya are much larger in size than their counterparts in India but the they all beat to the same rhythms and rendition connecting people from Pamir ranges to Kandy hills. Music is an important medium to at least enable creation of a platform and it is hoped with the immense contribution of Pappu Sain, masses and leaders in South Asia further develop the desire for strengthening musical connection for welfare of non-stream artists like Pappu Sain and for greater peace.
“Lahore’s pride Pappu Sain passes away,” Dawn, 8 November 2021