Lahore: The sound of 15 guitars playing at the same time, with each one strumming to a different tune, may seem chaotic.
But it is not. The 15 young musicians are busy with their lesson and there is harmony in what they were playing.
In the basement of Alhamra Hall, in Lahore, large numbers of students come to learn how to play the guitar.
Music classes are held throughout the day under the guidance of master guitarist Sajjad Taffu, the only guitarist in Pakistan’s history to receive the country’s highest honour — the Presidential Award of Pride of Performance.
Pop music has always been the forte of Pakistani singers and musicians.
It began in the late 60s with singer Ahmad Rushdi and his popular song Ko Ko Karina.
The country’s music journey has continued since, but waned under military dictatorship in the 1980s.
Over the last decade, the guitar has emerged as many teenagers’ favourite musical instrument.
Everywhere you go in Lahore you will find the young people with guitar cases slung over their shoulders.
Alhamra is not the only place where guitar is taught, but it is one of the most popular, as Sajjad himself is a source of inspiration for many young musicians.
“I have been playing the guitar for the last 47 years. I have played it across the globe in many countries,” Sajjad says “I started playing guitar at the age of six.”
He played the guitar for the film industry for over three decades.
“I played guitar with different bands in Harlem, New York, for some years,” Sajjad says. “Recently I gave solo performance in concerts in Oslo, Norway. Whatever I have learnt from my experience I am passing it on to my students, who are my assets,” he adds.
His student Saqib Ali, 26, who hails from Sahiwal (a town about 200 kilometres away from Lahore), is also in his first year of a Marketing MBA at the University of Central Punjab.
He developed interest in guitar when he was in college.
“The passion increased with the passage of time. What started as a hobby has now become a sweet obsession. My guitar playing skills have been much appreciated at campus level music society called Plektra.
“It soothes my nerves and pleases my inner soul. I do not care for the material world. Everybody is in rush for something that they themselves do not know. It is all an effort to find a short cut to make some bucks. I will be a success story in my own time. But I will continue to play guitar for myself even after joining the corporate world,” Saqib said.
“I am soon going to launch my first song whose lyrics will comprise of the slang words used in our society. The language is in the state of transition where slang words have challenged the traditional arena of language. People are using more ‘fewer’ words to communicate or explain the nature of work like they do it on social media.” Saqib said.
“There is worldwide trend among youth to smoke, take drugs and alcohol. Art and music keep you away from such habits. Music, singing and dance are all healthy habit. This was the reason I joined guitar class?” he explained.
Umair Adnan, 18, doing his A-Levels, hails from downscale town of Lahore, Iqbal Town. He joined the guitar classes as a hobby. “I have many dreams but right now I am focusing on leaning guitar. You look a lot more impressive with guitar on your shoulder. Girls love guitar music,” he whispered in the end. Female guitar slingers are no less than their male counterparts. Momina Butt, 22, is a student of third year of Punjab University College of Pharmacy. “After successfully completing my two years at Pharmacy College I started taking interest in playing guitar. I am a vocalist and have performed in several college and university level functions.
“I joined the guitar class pass away my spare time. Moreover, I want to somehow get away from my depression which sometimes overtakes me. Both my passion for music and studies are important and near to my heart.
Irum Shezadi is studying at Allama Iqbal Open University and one day hopes to become a rock star. “I am a vocalist and have performed at religious singing (naat) competitions. Right now I am focusing on the learning guitar so I could synchronise my music with my vocals,” she said.
Naveed Afzal, 23, is a watch seller at upscale mall Pace at city’s Model Town Link Road. “It’s been one year since I started learning guitar. With every passing day my mentor Sajjad Tafu infuses me with great knowledge.
“I lost my interest in watch selling and that was the moment when I asked my elder brother to run the business and let me peruse my dreams and passion,” Naveed said.
Naveed said he would put aside 22 years of his life on one side and the past one year as the year of fulfilment.” It was something which I really wanted to do. I have set my goals which I am working very hard to achieve. I also say to my friends not to take to drugs and join this amazing realm of music where there are only heroes and no villains,” Naveed said.
Ahmed Ali who runs a shop named Guitar Centre in Gulberg area said the season of guitars sale was mostly in summers because fresh graduates and students who have passed their exam want to join music classes and then they buy guitars. “Students negotiate price of guitars and most of the time they wants to buy expensive guitar at price which suits them,” Ahmed said.
“We buy guitars from Karachi and also import guitars from China. The range of prices varies according to the quality of guitar. They start from Rs4,000 (40 US dollars) and go up to Rs20,000 (200 US dollars)