Ziauddin

Ziauddin (b. 1945) is a sitar-maker who was born in British India. He is the son of the famous sitar-maker Ustad Sher Muhammad Khan Sahib, who taught him how to make instruments when he was in fifth grade. Amongst his father’s students, Rikhi Ram, who supplied sitars to the Beatles, features perhaps most prominently. Ziauddin’s ancestors used to make sword sheaths in Mughal times, and later on, shifted to instrument making. He has made instruments for Ustad Sharif Khan Poonchawaley, Ustad Kabir Khan, and Ustad Nafees Ahmed Khan, who are all world-famous sitarists. One of his sons, Muhammad Kashan, works along with him. He runs his father’s shop, and makes a wide variety of stringed instruments by hand.


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Dilawar Jameel

Dilawar Jameel (b. 1989) is a tabla-maker who was born in Lahore, though his family comes from Rongal Pind, a village near the city of Wazirabad. His grandfather used to be based in the village and later on moved to Lahore His family has traditionally been making instruments for a long time, with him stating that it was one of the original instrument-making families of Lahore. He was taught how to make the tabla by his father when he was seventeen years old, while he professionally started making instruments when he was nineteen. He used to play the dholak earlier, and also worked at an office for some time. His son is currently learning this art from him, and he also has three to four students. He is currently actively making instruments.


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Ghulam Sarwar

Ghulam Sarwar (b. 1948) is a matka player from Gujranwala. He plays the matka, a percussion instrument which is a large clay pot which produces an energetic and lively sound when played. Even though his family used to be blacksmiths, he felt an inclination towards music, and taught himself how to play the matka at the age of eighteen.  Throughout his career, he has played at the Punjab Arts Council in Alhambra, and has also played at the haveli of Mian Yousaf Salahuddin. He has normally worked solo, and currently has no students, though he plans to teach his youngest son how to play the matka. His other children are currently working in a automobile workshop. He has been playing the matka for over 40 years and continues to perform professionally.


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Farhan Iqbal

Farhan Iqbal (b. 1987) is a tabla and harmonium player who was born in Lahore. His paternal grandfather, Ustad Inayat Ali Khan, who hailed from Amritsar, was the son-in-law of the legendary Ustad Mian Qadir Bakhsh, the Khalifa, or head, of the Punjab gharana. Interestingly, he is the brother of Waqar Hussain, another of our interviewees.

Even though he belongs to the Punjab tabla gharana, his father, Muhammad Iqbal Paaley Khan Sahib, formally taught him how to play the harmonium in his childhood. Nevertheless, Farhan Iqbal enthusiastically learnt the tabla by watching his elders play it as a child. His great-uncle, Khalifa Akhtar Hussain, also took an interest in his musical education, and used to teach him the tabla by making him watch himself play. Once he completed high school, his father wanted him to go to college, but he opted to pursue his passion for music instead. A compromise was reached when he began to learn the harmonium from the son of Ustad Ghaamay Khan from Kasur, Ustad Naeem Khan Sahib, as per his father’s wishes, instead of further pursuing the tabla.

He currently is a music teacher at a school, and also provides home tuition to students. He sometimes collaborates with singers and other musicians, and once went to Dubai to play with the great Ustad Hussain Bakhsh Gullu, and has often been invited by Yousaf Salahuddin to his haveli to play with other musicians, including famed musicians such as Ali Zafar and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.


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Ali Billa

Ali Billa (b. 1964) is a harmonium-maker who was born in Lahore. Unlike many others in the field of classical music, his family members were not musicians: in fact, his father was a driver. When he was in sixth grade, he became interested in playing the sitar and went to Bombay Music Store in Bansanwala Bazaar, run by the son of the sitar player Muhammed Alam and asked to be taught how to play the sitar. The musician agreed, but when the child saw the mizraab (the plectrum used for plucking the sitar’s strings), he flatly objected. Upon this, the musician proposed the alternative of learning the harmonium, which he accepted. He began learning how to make and play harmoniums and later on became a student of Ustad Ikhlaq Ahmad Khan. Ali Billa has five children—four sons and one daughter—who do not play music but are currently pursuing higher education. He has no students, as he believes that his set of skills will not be useful in the future and will die out with his generation. His shop remains as one the last harmonium shops in Lahore’s inner city.


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