The Forgotten Flute

A Fresh Perspective

on Lahore’s Musical Culture

Hassan Ali is a middle-aged musician who plays the harmonium and the bansuri (flute). His grandfather, the sarangi virtuoso Ustad Nathu Khan, taught the famed singer Farida Khanum. Though his main instrument of choice is the harmonium, Mr.Ali learnt the flute later on and enjoys its intrinsic beauty. He started playing music when he was around thirteen years old and has worked in both genres: classical and light music, often mixing the two in his work. He has performed in many concerts around the world such as in the UK and the Middle East. 

In his interview, he expresses his belief that classical music is the main juz, or ingredient, of all music. One should always learn it before venturing into other musical fields. Other genres, like pop music, are good to learn but are more like icing on the cake rather than the true base.

He also criticises the modern way of learning music, which is ever too often conducted through video courses, especially in the age of the coronavirus pandemic. In his opinion, learning face-to-face is always better, because only then can one truly absorb the teacher’s wisdom and experience. He believes that staring at a computer screen is nothing but a poor substitute for the traditional method of learning, in which the teacher can actively correct any of the student’s errors or misunderstandings.  


Alongside performing, Hassan Ali has taught several students, of whom many have adopted music as a profession. He remembers how he used to tutor them when they came back from school.

He aso fondly reminisces how his ustad, Lala Gulzar Hussain, taught him to play the harmonium by continously making him practice his pultain, or scales. Sometimes, his hand would go numb from the continuous practice! But he strongly believes that the hard work paid off and without such effort, a musician can never become truly competent.


At the end of his interview, Hassan Ali wishes to pass on a message to the future generation, urging them to carry on the ancient tradition of Pakistani classical music. He reminds them that there is nothing wrong with playing music, and dispels the common belief that music is sinful by reminding us of how devotional music like Qawwalis and Naats are also forms of music.  


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