Islamabad - A 10-day folk festival, popularly known as Lok Mela, dedicated to the dying crafts of Pakistan began here on Friday.

The Lok Mela, which is an annual event of Lok Virsa, is showcasing a special exhibition of dying crafts of the country together with mesmerising culture performances.

Zarsanga, a famous Pashto singer also known as Queen of Pashto Folklore, inaugurated the mega culture event which will continue till April 13.

Muhammad Azam, secretary information, broadcasting and national heritage, said, “Pakistan has very diverse culture; it is a cradle of different civilisations like Mohenjo-Daro and Gandhara”. He said that Pakistan is home to sacred places of different religions like Hinduism and Sikhism. “We have different kinds of languages, poetry, music and arts and this Mela is an effort to showcase these things”, he added.

Lok Virsa Executive Director, Dr Fouzia Saeed, gave a brief overview of the concept and objectives of the festival with special references to music and regional languages. “This Mela is one of the most amazing things that Lok Versa puts up; Lok Virsa has already done amazing job in documenting and researching on folklore and my focus will be more on dissemination. Documenting and preserving is not enough; the research materials need to be translated to digestible and acceptable products.”

She said that culture and folklores have magic and it is need of the hour to make magic in real time and real space. According to Dr Fouzia, “Music is not entertainment; music has a power to transform life.”

During the inauguration ceremony, different folk singers and artists performed on the stage. Silk Route Karawan Group from Shamshal Gilgit-Baltistan was first to perform.

The artists performed typical Karakoram dance while a group of singers sang Rubayat in Persian. “We are travelling; we have loaded camels and are travelling,” was the theme of the songs that represented the life of nomads.

Next group of artists represented Hindu Kush. Mansoor Ali Shahbab sang in Kawar langue while a group of women representing Kailash culture danced to the music.

Folklore Queen Zarsanga mesmerized crowed with Pashto “Tapa”. The crowd cheered, whistled and clapped with her “Ya Qurban.” The theme of her singing was the life of and hardships faced by nomads and travellers.

Ganpat Bheer and Wardho Bheer, a pair of young singers, dressed in typical Thar dress, presented Marwari music. Bushra Sadiq sang the poetry of Sufi poet Sultan Baho while singer Akhtar Chanal did representation for Brahui langue.

Dastarbandi or Chaddar Poshi is one of the most important features of the opening ceremony of Lok Mela. Dastarbandi ceremony is paying tribute to the numerous services of artisans/artists in keeping the cultural heritage of the country in limelight.

Previously it was restricted to established folk artists while this time a master craftsman was also included in this segment.

Zarsanga was with a chadar (shawl) while Imdad Ali Vighio, a block maker from Hala, Mityari district of Sindh, got the shawl of honour. He has more than forty years in the field of block-making and had contributed immense in safeguarding the old techniques of the craft.

During the ten days Lok Mela, apart from folk music and dance, a Lok Virsa Pavilion is being set up wherein 18 master artisans representing different specialised dying crafts will showcase their work and expertise.