The beat is fading for Pakistan’s Ramadan drummers

In this picture taken on May 30, 2018, a Pakistani man Lal Hussain (C), 66, 'Ramadan drummer' beats his drum as he makes calls at doors "wake up and eat your sehri morning meal" before thier fasting during Ramadan at Bani, an old residential area, in Rawalpindi. (AFP)
Updated 11 June 2018
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The beat is fading for Pakistan’s Ramadan drummers

RAWALPINDI: Lal Hussain saunters through Rawalpindi’s empty streets at 1:00 am shattering the silence with syncopated drum beats, awakening startled Pakistanis so they can sleepily eat one last meal before the day’s Ramadan fasting begins.
“Wake up and eat your morning meal!” he howls along with the Bhangra-inspired beats emanating from his dhol drum.
Hussain has been faithfully hitting the streets every Ramadan for the last 35 years, walking with his tasselled drum for miles through the deserted byways and back alleys of the city’s old quarter.
Mothers and children peek through their windows to catch a glimpse of the drummer as he passes, while men greet him in the streets offering small amounts of cash as thanks for his service.
But this centuries-old tradition is becoming rarer in Pakistan.
Millions of devout Pakistanis observe the holy fasting month of Ramadan. From sunrise onwards they abstain from food and drink, breaking their fast at sunset with a meal called iftar.
Then in the hours before dawn they eat once more, with sehri, the morning meal, giving them a final opportunity to consume liters (pints) of water and juice and plates of food before the day-long fast.
Drummers once provided the heartbeat to the sehri ritual but their future is uncertain as more Pakistanis connect to the grid and purchase smartphones.
Now, people almost universally rely on phone alarms, digital clocks or public announcements on loudspeakers to rouse them from their slumber in time for sehri.
“Need is the mother of innovation,” says Uxi Mufti, former director general of Pakistan’s national institute of culture and heritage.
“Now when (the drummers) are not required, they are vanishing.”
Every year fewer drummers fan out in the cities and villages across Pakistan during Ramadan to wake their fellow Muslims for sehri.
“Hardly a dozen drummers are left in Rawalpindi,” Hussain tells AFP as he makes his rounds through the city of some five million people.
“There used to be a drum beater in every street but now many of them have gone. The younger generations have adopted other professions.”
Even as his fellow drummers have retired or abandoned the tradition, the 66-year-old persists undaunted as he battles hepatitis C — determined to keep the practice alive for as long as possible.
His dedication has endeared him to residents.
“It rekindles (memories of) our forefathers, our culture, so we enjoy it in the same manner,” says Yasir Butt.
And with Pakistan’s frequent power cuts, Hussain says he is ultimately more reliable than residents’ battery-reliant phones.
“There are people who tell me to continue with drum beating as they don’t trust their mobile phones,” he says.


Former manager of Marvel’s Stan Lee arrested for elder abuse

Updated 26 May 2019
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Former manager of Marvel’s Stan Lee arrested for elder abuse

  • Keya Morgan “will go before a judge and eventually (be) extradited to Los Angeles to face charges”
  • Lee died last November at the age of 95 after suffering multiple illnesses over the years

LOS ANGELES: Late Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee’s former manager was arrested in Arizona on Saturday in connection with allegations of elder abuse, fraud, theft and false imprisonment, Los Angeles police said.
Keya Morgan “will go before a judge and eventually (be) extradited to Los Angeles to face charges,” according to a statement released by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Lee, who revolutionized pop culture as the co-creator of iconic superheroes such as Spider-Man and Black Panther, died last November at the age of 95 after suffering multiple illnesses over the years, and had been the victim in an elder abuse investigation that began in March 2018.
His former attorney, Tom Lallas, last year sought a restraining order against Morgan, claiming that the 43-year-old was a “memorabilia collector who inserted himself into Mr. Lee’s life as his caregiver” and isolated him from his loved ones.
Lallas accused Morgan of exploiting Lee, who he said was exhibiting signs of short-term memory loss and impaired judgment, amid a struggle over the comic-book mogul’s fortune, estimated at over $50 million.
In addition to issuing the restraining order, Los Angeles authorities also arrested Morgan last year for making false calls to 911, alleging that Lee’s life was in danger.
Police say he made the calls in order to convince Lee to leave his Hollywood Hills residence and move to a secured condo in Beverly Hills last June so he would be isolated and under Morgan’s control.
Police also accuse Morgan of stealing, including by staging autograph signing sessions worth $262,000 — money that never made it into Lee’s coffers.
Following last year’s restraining order, Morgan told TMZ that he had “taken great care of Stan Lee for the past many years, and... never had a problem directly with Stan.”
“I will 100 percent prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the allegations against me are false,” he said at the time. “The truth will come out.”