PESHAWAR: For residents of Peshawar, this is music to their ears.
With an aim to adapt to technological change, the city -- rich in culture and heritage and capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – has decided to set up its first digital library which will house more than 12,000 Pashto songs.
“We decided it was time to adapt ourselves to the modern age and because these audio records are an asset to us, we needed this digital archive and hence decided to set it up,” Laiq Zada Laiq, Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation’s (PBC) Peshawar station director, told Arab News.
“We have digitalized 10,000 hours of recordings so far,” Laiq said, adding that the PBC collaborated with the Muhammad Yaqoob Bangash Memorial Audio Library for the project.
Among the gems archived are songs by almost 500 singers, including an interview of the first station director, Aslam Khattak, and several audio dramas. The library also houses hundreds of cassettes and spools -- placed in cupboards above which photos of old Pashto folksingers are displayed. Prime among its treasures are old audiotapes and rare photographs of iconic singers and artists.
The library, named after Muhammad Yaqoob Bangash, a former station director, was the brainchild of his son -- Shaukat A Bangash, Chief Executive Officer of Quaid-e-Azam International Hospital Islamabad.
Shaukat, who bore all the expenses for the project, told Arab News that he set up the library as a tribute to his father. “My father served the Peshawar station as director for a long time which is why we decided to set up this library. Before this, artists and researchers did not have records of any past activities,” he added.
While the library is not currently open to the public, Shaukat is of the opinion that online access to the digitalized recordings – which is the main aim of the project -- will be given in due course.
The PBC was established in 1935 as the Provincial Broadcasting Station, in Peshawar, but was renamed the All India Radio station two years later. After the partition in 1947, however, its title was changed to Pakistan Broadcasting Service, which later became the Radio Pakistan in the 1950s. In 1972, Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation was founded with Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television Corporation becoming its subsidiaries.
Discussing PBC Peshawar station’s history, Shaukat said that the-then British rulers understood the importance of the local Pashto language which is why they inaugurated the Peshawar station, in Pashto, in 1935.
Irfan Kamal, a music librarian at the PBC, told Arab News that the library can facilitate researchers, writers and those interested in studying an artiste or the music. “Around 12,000 files of songs, 400 Pashto audio dramas and 400 audio dramas in Urdu have been digitalized,” he added.
Senior producer at the PBC, Bilal Khan, said that though the library has an archive of its own productions -- since the Peshawar station’s establishment in 1935 -- they also house older programs and spools gifted by people. “We also have catalogues of program details, such as names of the producer and other participants.”
Dr Humayun Huma, a drama writer associated with the radio since 1952 when he wrote his first Pashto drama “Salor Zara Rupai” (Four Thousand Rupees), said that he was glad to see the library’s establishment, but added that the government should provide funds to the PBC to enable it to produce dramas, songs and other programs. “Production of audio dramas has plummeted a lot nowadays due to the scarcity of funds,” he said, adding that this would provide for a good revival platform.
Almas Khalil, another popular Pashto singer, said that it is necessary to preserve local culture and the library, in that sense, is a step in the right direction. “We also don’t get much in terms of wages for our profession, but it is heartening that at least our services were acknowledged in the shape of a library to preserve our work,” he added.
A thought echoed by renowned Pashto and Coke Studio singer Zar Sanga.
Sanga told Arab News that the digital archive library is an appreciation of the singers’ work. “It will keep our voices alive for the coming generations,” she added.