Seven years old in Amritsar now, PHD-Punjab International Trade Expo, 2012 (PITEX) has become a familiar name for Punjabis. People await the event anxiously, and over the years have become familiar with a number of exhibitors who are regular at the event.
As the event started in Amritsar on Thursday, a familiar face was seen browsing through the crowd and entertaining the audience. Zafar Lohar, a known name in Pakistan for Sufi singing and playing the chimpta and dhol, is a regular at the event from the beginning.
Such is his popularity among the crowd that every time he and his troupe member Mohammad Zaman (who plays the dhol) start performing, the crowd at the venue comes to a standstill, as people look at the duo swirling with a nearly 10-kg heavy dhol around his neck.
“It is the love of people here that brings us back. Every time we come, people appreciate us and enjoy our performances. There is no dearth of dholis here, but people still appreciate us a lot,” he says.
Back in 1972, Zafar became a shagird of popular Pakistani performer Alam Lohar and later kept performing with his son Arif Lohar. Now, he has a group of five members called Zafar Lohar Party, which performs across the world. Besides, he also holds classes in singing and playing the dhol and chimpta for Pakistani youth.
“The dhol made in Pakistan is very different from the one in India. Its size is bigger and weighs nearly 10 kg, and is made of wood,” he informs.
Over the years, the preferences of youth have changed and people’s inclination towards traditional instruments has decreased. But Zafar feels that this is just a natural change. “Earlier, people used to wear lachcha-kurta, then switched to salwar-kameez and then to jeans and shirts. So, change is inevitable. Though in Pakistan, restrictions are more and people still stick to the traditional dresses of salwar-kameez,” says he.
Zafar, who has nearly 10 Indian visas on his passport, was disappointed on his present visit, since for the first time, three of his troupe members were not given visas. Hence, he had to hire people from Ludhiana to perform with him.
“I have no idea why my troupe members were not given visas this time,” he says.
Zafar signs off by saying that peace and friendship should always be maintained between both the countries.