National Intangible Heritage Archives
Text and Images by: Haroon Khalid
Sitting behind a desk, Arif Jafri plays with his flute as he talks about his music archive. Jafri is a classically trained musician who has been playing the flute for the past forty years. Now he is heading the program for National Intangible Heritage Archives in collaboration with UNESCO, a project which aims to digitize all music composed from Pakistan to date. There is no doubt that music is Jafri’s first love. There is no other person better suited for this project. His recently published book, Who’s Who in Pakistan’s World of Music, is placed next to the flute. This is an encyclopedia of all musicians, singers and music collectors from the country, and includes their current contact information. His office walls present a history of music in the Indian peninsula, introducing one to the concept of gharanas (families), the different gharanas and their family trees. This is a record spanning over seven centuries in some cases, summed up in a few pages. There are pictures of famous people from particular gharans next to the family trees. In the middle of two gharans, Jafri has pinned up black, round records, which were used to play music before the advent of cassettes. A rack near the entrance has a collection of cassettes. Another one next to his seat has newspapers cuttings about famous musicians and singers. It is, in short, an office dedicated to music, and housed within the building of the Pakistan National Council of Arts, a government institute, built in the 1970s to promote arts in the country.
|Part of Arif Jafri’s collection of texts on music||Records from Jafri’s collection||The wall of history: gharanas over time|
“We have about 4000 hours of music,” he tells me, as he takes out a thick book from under his desk and places it on the table. “This catalogue contains information about everything we have,” he says. It is a photocopied book, which begins with a description of what musical gharanas are. A page has been dedicated to each collection, and includes the name of the artist, gharana, record duration, songs, and production details, and also the form in which the original collection is available. Their collection, which is available in records, cassettes, and now CDs, is currently being transferred into CDs with golden-plated surfaces. This master copy is guaranteed to live for more than 100 years. Jafri points at three pages pinned up behind his chair. Guidelines to Cataloguing it reads. “These are international standards that we follow,” he says. “Any music, song ever produced in Pakistan is with us,” he says.
This is a project currently sponsored by UNESCO. The total duration of the grant is three years.