A vanishing scene. There are seven to eight shops in Dhol Gali off Napier road. Most of them have been selling tablas and dholaks for decades. The craft has been transferred from father to son and so on so forth. Though tablas and dholak are still very much present on display, other music instruments have vanished. Even tablas and dholaks sale fetch paltry sums, not enough to attract new generation into business.
Ibad, a friend of mine who facilitates drum circles around the city called me one day and ecstatically told me about the gali. A few hours later we were there. Kumar cinema is the closest landmark. As we head towards a shop, Ibad told me that he wanted to get his dholaks repaired and he was referred to a shop in dhol gali. Zulfiqar, one of the shop owners from where Ibad got his drums repaired was a lean man in his 40s. As we examined his merchandise, he continued to work on fixing a tabla. He told me that he has been running his shop in the same location for past few decades. While a lot of dhols were being purchased from Lahore, tablas were still assembled in Karachi. He showed me a processed skin piece that he had purchased from meat sellers. As my friends continued to explore his shop, I looked outside. There was a fragile old tree with seem to have evolved out of the wall. Few people were hanging out on far end of the street. There was a rare chill in the air. Sunlight filtered through the kind tree above and made patterns on the floor. All of it, in deep contrast to maddening traffic on Napier road and in general in Karachi.
We walked further. There were two shops on our left which operated in similar fashion. The craftsmen however requested not to be photographed. The last shop in the street was run by Zulfiqar’s nephew – a young and knowledgeable gentleman – who was more acquainted with the trends in the industry. He was giving final touches to a tabla by applying a mixer on top of skin to harden it, so that it could give a different beat when struck against.
We returned to the main street and made a couple of stops. The shops were tiny and in dire condition but the craftsmen were upbeat and inspiring. Ibad told me that the he would love to bring his drum circle students here. There was so much to learn and experience here. I could not agree more.