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Indus Blues

Pakistan 2018 | Documentary | 76 mins. | Urdu with English Subtitles

4/27/2019   |   10:00 am - 12:00 noon

This feature will be preceded by a short film - INDIAN CIRCUS

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In Pakistan, a country riddled with political turmoil, economic challenges, and social identity crisis, musicians and instrument craftsmen find it hard to survive and sustain their art. They also have to deal with the fact that being a music performer is a social taboo in the society. Filmmaker Jawad Sharif not only showcases the unique performances of these rarely seen musical instruments from perhaps their last remaining maestros but also takes the audience on a journey throughout the landscape of Pakistan from the northern Karakoram mountains to the southern coastline.





Jawad is an award-winning filmmaker who has come into prominence for exploring social subjects that are often ignored. Known for his signature visual storytelling style, he has also won several awards for his project "K2 & the Invisible Footmen," which has been screening around the world. With his brainchild Indus Blues, he aims to highlight an art form he personally cares about. An alumnus of the, Swedish Institute and Institut Fur Auslandsbeziehunge, Germany, Jawad is also the founder of Bipolar Films.


A project very close to my heart, Indus Blues tells the story of some of the most precious folk music treasures from the cultures of Indus which are on the verge of disappearance. The musicians associated with these musical instruments are ironically the most prominent figures in their art form but they are barely surviving in a society largely indifferent to what they have to offer. While I strongly believe that this is a story that the entire world needs to be told, urban audiences in Pakistan are surprisingly as unaware of the existence of some of these musical instruments as someone who is unfamiliar with this culture. However, the reasons driving me to produce this film go far beyond than just the disappearance of these folk musical treasures. Perhaps one of the greatest factors that inspired me was the social attitude toward art and music in Pakistani societies. There is no doubt that music is a rich and inseparable part of the cultures in Pakistan but increasingly menacing religious orthodoxy and obscurantism are jeopardizing this beautiful form of creative expression. I believe our very civilization is under threat due to the obscurantism imposed by religious indoctrination of society. The musicians and craftsmen that we have featured in this film have first-hand accounts of harassment and violence at the hands of religious clerics and their followers. Even the makers of this film were physically threatened and obstructed by some miscreants in some of the communities covered.

Of course, religious extremism is just one of the factors behind the decline of folk music in Pakistan. Problems such as lack of economic sustenance, poor opportunities, low market demand, and lack of state patronage are also primary factors. Clearly, other factors have been heavily influenced by religious intolerance toward music, resulting in significant strata of society shunning music because they are taught that it is forbidden and evil. Meanwhile, the more westernized urban communities, though lesser affected by religious extremism, are mostly disconnected from their ethnic roots and not exposed to the plight and the music of these folk artists.

While you see recent commercial ventures promoting music in Pakistan, even featuring folk artists, they are still nowhere near enough to what is required. It is important to note that some of the folk treasures such as Boreendo and Sarinda are not likely to survive unless the government and its cultural departments offer patronage to the artists and invest in their promotion. Many of the musicians and craftsmen featured in the film are among the last remaining artists to keep their tradition alive, and that too because it was a part of their family inheritance. As a matter of fact, Ejaz Sarhadi is the last remaining Sarinda player, Fakeer Zulfiqar is probably the only known prominent Boreendo player and Zohaib Hassan is a rare, solitary youth who took up the Sarangi in the tradition of his grandfather Ustad Hussain Baksh Amritsari.

Indus Blues is also about artists responding to hate and intolerance with peace and love. The film also reveals the humanist philosophy among the artists and Sufis of Pakistan who offer an alternative understanding of their faith for arts and music to survive, if not flourish. The preparation, research, and production of Indus Blues have been a tremendous learning experience for me and my team. We were astounded by the sophistication and wisdom of our folk artists in Pakistan and realized that we have much to learn from them. I hope Indus Blues goes a long way to take the message of the folk artist of Pakistan to the entire world. I am honored to have the opportunity to offer them a platform through this film.


Directed & Produced by Jawad Sharif

Creative Producer Arieb Azhar

Executive Producer Zeejah Fazli

Co-Producers Adeel Malik & Mohsin Reza Naqvi

Edited by Jawad Sharif & Asmat Bashir

Cinematography by Asmat Bashir

Screenwriter/Associate Producer Haroon Riaz

Production Coordinator Mehnaz Parveen

Assistant Director Ahmed Waqas


Ajmal Laal Bheel

Rehmatullah Baig

Gulbaz Karim

Ustad Ziauddin

Allahjurriyo Kambhar

Ibraheem Hajano

Muhammad Jan

Mai Dhai

Arieb Azhar

Saif Samejo

Nighat Chaudhary

Krishan Laal Bheel

Faqeer Juman Shah

Sachu Khan

Ejaz Sarhadi

Zohaib Hassan

Faqeer Zulfikar

Akbar Khamisu Khan

Sattar Jogi

Mumtaz Ali Sabzal



Directed & Produced by Jawad Sharif

Creative Producer Arieb Azhar

Executive Producer Zeejah Fazli

Co-Producers Adeel Malik & Mohsin Reza Naqvi

Edited by Jawad Sharif & Asmat Bashir

Cinematography by Asmat Bashir

Screenwriter/Associate Producer Haroon Riaz

Production Coordinator Mehnaz Parveen

Assistant Director Ahmed Waqas


Nighat Chaudhary is the leading classical Kathak dancer of Pakistan. Born and raised in the United Kingdom, she moved to Pakistan to practice and promote her passion for classical dance. She is currently teaching classical Kathak dance in Lahore. However, her art has been under attack since the Islamization during the Zia regime in Pakistan. In modern Pakistan, she remains to be one of the few beacons of hope resisting social taboos and keeping the tradition of classical dance alive.

Saif Samejo is the lead vocalist and songwriter of the Sketches band. Samejo is known for his cultural activism and revivalism of the folk music, with Sindhi music as his primary area of interest. Founder of the Lahooti Melo festival, he is credited for bringing ancient Sindhi musical instruments such as Boreendo, Chang, and Kamacho to the modern spotlight.

Mai Dhai is a Merwari language classical folk singer from Tharparkar, Sindh, with tribal roots in Rajasthan in modern India. She was first noticed in popular culture in Pakistan since her appearance in a popular music television show in 2015. She has represented Pakistan in SXSW Music 2015 in the United States in collaboration with the Foundation of Arts, Culture and Education.

Arieb Azhar is one of the most prominent contemporary folk and Sufi vocalists and songwriters in Pakistan. Son of the late Aslam Azhar, who is remembered as the architect of television broadcasting in Pakistan,

Arieb inherited a rich tradition of arts and culture in his family, and his style reflects an attractive mix of World music and traditional music of the Subcontinent. Together with being a professional musician, Arieb is also an arts producer, festival curator, and cultural activist. He is also the Creative Producer of Indus Blues. FEATURING

Sachu Khan is one of the most legendary folk and semi-classical Suroz players in the history of Pakistan. This maestro is a towering figure in the local musical tradition. He started his career in the 1970s with Radio Pakistan Quetta. He has represented Pakistan around the world. Currently, Sachu Khan is seriously ill and is fighting heart disease. Faqeer Zulfikar is the only known Boreendo player in Pakistan. He also plays the Narr, a Sindhi variant of the flute, as well as the Damburi, which is a smaller version of the Dambura but played like a Rabab. The son of Sindhi folk artist Mir Muhammad Lund, Faqeer Zulfikar, who was the recipient of Pride of Performance Award, is singlehandedly keeping the ancient tradition of Boreendo alive.

Zohaib Hassan is the leading name among the handful of Sarangi players left in Pakistan. Hailing from the Amritsar clan, Zohaib is the grandson of Ustad Hussain Baksh Amrtisari who migrated to the heart of the walled city of Lahore from eastern Punjab in modern day India. The tradition of the Sarangi is linked with classical dance used to be practiced in the Shahi Mohalla of Lahore, which has been outlawed since the Islamization during the term of General Zia-ul-Haq.

Ejaz Sarhadi is the only Sarinda player left in Pakistan and is a master of his craft. He is the son of the legendary Muneer Sarhadi, who along with his father Pazeer Khan, is credited for popularizing the musical instrument in the mainstream of folk music in both Pakistan and United India. Ejaz Sarhadi’s son has opted to learn the saxophone as his instrument of choice instead of the Sarinda.

Ajmal Laal Bheel is the protégé of the colorful folk artist Krishan Laal Bheel and is a member of the Bheel Bhakti troupe. He is the primary Raanti player, an instrument only played by the Bheels from Rahimyar Khan. He is at the forefront of keeping this ancient folk tradition alive and also crafts the Raanti, which is not made in any other place in the country.


Mumtaz Ali Sabzal is a multiple award-winning expert craftsman of the Balochi Banjo while being a maestro of the instrument. He comes from the founder family of the instrument based in Lyari and followed his father’s advice to learn to craft the instrument. Today, he crafts a Banjo in a month and a half and also prepares them with the addition of a Swarmandal. He also has plans to create a new musical instrument derived from the Banjo and the Veena.

Ustad Ziauddin is the torchbearer of a tradition a couple of centuries old and arguably the most capable Sitar maker in Pakistan. Winner of the Presidential Pride of Performance Award, Ziauddin is the son of Ustad Sher Muhammad, who was one of the most prolific Sitar craftsmen in United India. Ustad Ziauddin also happens to be the only credible Sarangi craftsman in Pakistan who has witnessed the times change for classical music in Lahore.

Krishan Laal Bheel leads the Bhakti musical troupe of the Bheel tribe of Cholistan and is the most prominent Merwari artist in Pakistan. Bheel’s troupe is known for its Bhakti music, using traditional instruments such as the Manjeera used in Hindu chanting rites. Introduced in a popular show of Pakistan Television in the late 70s, Krishan Laal Bheel has since become an essential feature in folk music shows in the country.

Sattar Jogi is from the Sindhi snakecharmer community and is keeping an ancient tradition alive that is specific to his people and culture. For an instrument that is not sold publicly, he bears a heavy responsibility on his shoulders including the others from his community. However, this rich symbol of the heritage of the Indus is fading gradually.

Gulbaz Karim is a Sufi vocalist and Chardha player representing the Wakhi Pamiri musical tradition, who mostly plays the poems of the Sufi saint Pir Nasir Khusrow. While based in Karimabad, Gulbaz is affiliated with an Islamabad based Wakhi Sufi band called Bazm-e-Laka.

Muhammad Jan is one of the two Suroz players left in Eastern Balochistan. Muhammad Jan also sings and plays the Dambura on the side. He is the son and student of Thango Khan who crafted the original instrument played by legendary Balochi artist Sachu Khan, featured in the Indus Blues project.

Ibraheem Hajano crafts the Alghoza, and is the student of the illustrious Ustad Khamisu Khan, an instrument which has become synonymous with the culture of Sindh. He had learned to craft this instrument in a period of one year in his teens. A passionate soul, Hajano loves his craft and makes the instrument for his teacher’s son Akbar Khamisu Khan.





Raanti is an ancient folk bow and string instrument of the Merwari origin. Raanti is used mainly as an accompanying instrument to the Bhakti folk musical troupe of Krishan Laal Bheel. However, its unique and distinct sound clearly stands out and can be heard in the music of the Bheel community and the Manganhaar community.


Even though the origins of Sarangi remain obscure in the leaflets of history, the sound of the instrument has become synonymous with the Indian subcontinent. Considered to be one of the most difficult instruments to play, Sarangi forms the core of the melodies of the various ragas of Indian classical music. The tradition of the Sarangi is linked with classical dance practiced in the Shahi Mohalla neighborhood of Lahore.


Suroz is the Balochi variant of the Persian bow and string family of instruments. The musical instrument is primarily used to play traditional Balochi tunes, especially the folk tales such as the Hani Shah Mureed. The instrument is played with a bow on three main strings, with sympathetic strings used to accent the scale.

Balochi Banjo

An unlikely innovation, Balochi Banjo was adapted from the Japanese toy organ Taishogoto in 1919 by Lyari maestro Gul Muhammad Baloch. Balochi Banjo is a string instrument that is both strummed and played with keys on a meter-long deodar board. The modern form of the instrument often comes paired with a Swarmandal. A variant of this instrument is known as Bulbultarang in India.


Chardha or the Pamiri Rabab is a variant of the string instrument Rabab from Kabul popular in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The Chardha has its roots in the Persian and Tajik culture and was popularized by the Persian mystic Pir Nasir Khusrow who used it for preaching. Today, Chardha is gaining popularity in the Hunza region of Gilgit-Baltistan, apart from Tajikistan and the rest of Central Asia.

Murli Been

Coming from the eons old tradition of the Jogi snakecharmers of India, the Murli Been is crafted out of a gourd and twin reeds sealed with beeswax. Its mesmerizing organic sound in the Indian subcontinent as forever been associated with snakes and snakecharmers, and has become an inseparable part of the traditional music of Sindh.


A unique wind instrument indigenous to the cultures on the eastern bank of the Indus, Alghoza is a wind instrument with a double pipe structure. Crafted from Acacia or Rosewood, the male pipe gives a constant drone to support the female melody flute, which allows the player to produce various tunes on the tonic scale.



The haunting sound of Boreendo takes you centuries back into history. Local legend holds the origin of the Boreendo in the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. Boreendo is crafted using the same clay that is used to make pots and building bricks in the villages in Sindh, so no other instrument is more connected to the soil. The holes in the baked vessel enable the artist to control the pitch.



Sarinda is a bow and string instrument of the Pashtun variety, said to have originated in the Tirah Valley in the tribal areas near Afghanistan. The instrument was popularized in modern times by Muneer Sarhadi, the late father of our featured musician Ejaz Sarhadi. There are no known Sarinda craftsmen left in Pakistan.



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