Abhijit Dev Kumar
No celebration is complete without the Arabic band or ‘Arabi marfa’
Ensemble comprises dholaks, steel pots, marfa, thapi
“Arabic style of playing going on since Nizam’s rule”
Hyderabad: The sound of ‘teen-maar’ beat will definitely get one tapping feet and eventually make them dance with fervour. Enthusiastic revellers shower the musicians for keeping the tempo alive and taking it to the next level.
Amidst the innumerable bands present in the city, no celebration is complete without the Arabic band or ‘Arabi marfa’, as it is called in the Hyderabadi lingo.
Those in the profession can be easily recognised as they strut around clad in shirts and ‘lungis’ playing ‘dholaks’, steel pots, a small drum called ‘marfa’ and wooden strips called ‘thapi’.
Particularly in demand during the marriage, festival and election time, Nasser Basher, one of the oldest Arabic band musicians says this Arabic style of playing has been going on since the Nizam’s rule.
“The skill was passed on from father to son and that is how I started learning to play since my childhood,” says Mr. Basher, seated in his shop at Khowa-ka-Bela in Shahalibanda.
But how does one make music from steel pots?
“They are an integral part of the band, one has to timely strike it during a performance, thus giving it a lively feel. Small things matter while one is performing with steel pot and wooden strips apart from the drum and ‘marfa’, they sound different but when they are played together, the music is energetic,” says the 51-year-old.
However, life has become difficult for the musicians, especially when cost of living has been steadily escalating. “We get paid Rs. 300 for a performance and the only time where income is a little more is during the marriage season-from mid April to June,” says a musician.
“If the party is a bit more enthusiastic, then we might get an extra Rs. 50. But during other months, we have to take up odd jobs” he adds.
With every beat, they invigorate the atmosphere, energize revellers and invite the onlookers to dance with their music.
The next time you see an Arabic band performing during a festivity or a celebration, jump in and shake a leg.