Faiz Mohammad Baluch

Faiz Mohammad Baloch, the Woody Guthrie of the desert. Born in Iranian Baluchistan in 1900, he migrated to Indian Baluchistan as a young boy. Karachi’s bazaars and workshops drew his father to Lyari where Faiz, like hundreds of thousands other Baluchis settled. For some years he was a small trader and a laborer, carrying loads on his back to feed his family. In the evenings he sang folk and religious songs and performed at neighborhood weddings often for hours at a time. He accompanied himself on an damburag and jigged about as he got into the groove. With the birth of Pakistan he began singing on the national radio out of Karachi and developed a loyal following in the cities slums and poor neighborhoods. Over the years he gained a national, and indeed, pan-national audience and secured for himself an eminent position in Baluch cultural life. He passed away in 1980. This music is gritty and dusty. I only wish I understood Baluchi. The spirit of the music is strong and his style very colloquial. I referred to him as the Woody Guthrie of the desert, but the high lonesome keen of Bill Monroe and the raw emotion of southern work songs are echoed in Baloch’s voice too. Amidst the strumming he talks his lyrics and wails. And then he hits the groove and you can just see him dancing with his eyes closed tightly. He must be singing of love!

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