Sardar Ali Takkar (born 15 July 1956), a veteran of the Pashto singing scene, is mostly famous for singing the revolutionary poetry of Ghani Khan. An engineer by profession, Takkar is a graduate of the University of Engineering and Technology (Peshawar). In recognition of his services to the field of music the President of Pakistan had bestowed upon him the Pride of Performance Award.
Born in 1956 at Takkar village (Thakt Bahi) Mardan, he passed his matric examination from his village school and toped the whole mardan Board. He did his F.Sc. from Government College Mardan. He completed his graduation in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar. Aside from this he has also attended special courses in U.K and Canada.
His university life provided him more chances to exhibit his hidden talent. Initially he presented his skills before his friends, in different musical programme in the university. But in 1982 when Yar Muhammad Maghmum, a professor at the historic Edward College Peshawar, wanted to celebrate an evening with the great legendary and dynamic philosopher Ghani Khan, but was unable to find a singer who was ready to meet the challenge of putting Ghani's poetry to music. When Takkar became aware of the situation, he agreed to sing in that programme. Some people also recorded this programme on audio cassette, which got so much prominence that music stores started selling it on regular basis. In this way, his debut album (solely based on Ghani khan's poetry) touched the market incidentally.
It was in those days when a program for youths named "Zalmey Kool" (Young Generation) used to broadcast from the Radio Pakistan. Takkar for the first time not only played different instruments but also sang two ghazals in that program. After that, he also had the opportunity to record a program at the Peshawar Center of Pakistan Television Vision (PTV).
In 1984, Takkar left for Afghanistan. His stay in Afghanistan helped him become able to sing the poetry of those poets who were banned in Pakistan and his singing from Afghanistan also brought him prominence back at home. In recognition of his unforgettable services to Pashto music, the government of Pakistan awarded him with the Pride of Performance. He is also a recipient of numerous awards and certificates from a number of cultural organizations.
Kundan Lal Sehgal (1904-1947) had remained a great source of inspiration for Takkar. The sphere of K.L. Sehgal’s recorded music was very vast, as he had sung in Hindi, Urdu, Pashto, Punjabi, Bengali and Tamil. Takkar was so much inspired by Sehgal that at very young age he used to listen a music programme comprising of one of the Sehgal’s song, which was broadcasted from the radio daily in the morning. Such was the power and mystique of Sehgal's singing that Takkar too started his career singing in the 'Sehgal style' before etching out his own identity. Aside from Sehgal, he also got inspired from Jugjeth Singh, Punkaj Udhas and Mehdi Hassan. The major feature, which became the hallmark of his singing, was the selection of Ghani Khan’s poetry. From the very beginning, Takkar had an inclination towards Philosophy and used to read the Poet of the East i.e. “Allama Mohammad Iqbal” when he was in class 8th at his village school. After that he had also studied the poetry of Rahman Baba and Khushal Khan Khattak, but when he read Ghani Khan he felt him as the one whom he was searching for. This is due to the reason that in Ghani Khan’s poetry, he had found so many shades -- ranging from freedom, love of God, land and people, nationalism, fate, the mysteries of life and death, the joys of communion, and the woes of separation to beauty. Ghani khan was a true poet of modernism who was at home in variety of subjects like mysticism, romanticism, nationalism, skepticism, aestheticism, and philosophy.
Terming his stance and love towards Ghani Khan, he often narrates an interesting story. He recalls that one day while roaming in the hostel at University, he got a verse of Ghani Khan written on one of the door. Which was Che Da Taqwa Zaar Sajde She Jama, Da Ishq Yo Saat Thre Jor She.”
[One thousand prostrations (bows) when combined, give birth to a lone moment of love]
Seeing this verse gave birth to a motion and zeal in him, compelling him to search out for Ghani Khan’s poetry. As in those days, the government had banned Ghani Khan, therefore Takkar found it difficult to get any book comprising of his poetry. But this did not force him to stop there and he continued his search. At last, he succeeded in finding a book of Ghani Khan in the library of Area Study Center, University of Peshawar. Although this gave an extreme happiness to him, but to his sheer disappointment he was not allowed to borrow that book, being a reference book. For this Takkar had a novel solution, he used to stay till evenings in the library, noting down Ghani’s Poetry in his diary.
Takkar is the first well-educated Pashto singer. Before him, the sphere of Pashto music listeners was very limited in which the educated class was next to none but it was Sardar Ali Takkar who not only compelled the educated people to listen Pashto music, but also paved the way for educated ones who wanted to adopt Pashto singing. The main reason for which is that before him, the Pashto singers were mostly uneducated who did not paid much heed towards the selection of poetry for songs. They used to sing in those few traditional styles, which were prevalent from centuries. They also did not tried to expose the great poets to general masses through music, which resulted in the immature and bad taste for Pashto music. Contrary to them, Takkar having inclination towards literature, selected genre like philosophy and mysticism and that too were presented in an innovative style that is why these trends were acknowledged by the masses immediately. They started listening him, not only for his melodious voice but also for his selection of the best poetry. Takkar had always focused on the content of poetry along with music, as he believed that quality poetry is must for quality music. Takkar has strived in almost all the genre of Pashto poetry, which include ghazal, rubayi, charbeta, tappa, nemake and badala.
Takkar has also strived hard in selection and singing of ghazals, which has a special place in the literary universe. He has got a matchless style for presenting rubayi, which is developed by him lonely. His rubayi style had remained a striking force in shooting his fame.
But the most laudable and inimitable aspect of Takkar singing is “Azad Nazam” which he put in the musical tones. Although Azad Nazam has proved too difficult to be understand but it was Takkar’s tireless efforts, which resulted in recognition of Azad Nazam in the general public. Regarding “Azad Nazam”, Takkar opines that until the singer gets over the original message contained in it, it is impossible to sing it. All it need is great willpower and mindset. In his opinion, the singer must strive to put his mind behind each word he renders. Even now when the moment he sings Azad Nazam, the clamor in the surrounding gives way to complete silence. After almost stumbling into a singing career, Takkar quickly touched the apex of success and his soulfully rendered Pashto rubahis and specially Azad Nazams of the great Ghani Khan, touched responsive chords among music buffs in the province. The mellifluous quality and timbre of his natural voice have a special appeal for the serious folks and students specially.
In the beginning, Takkar was very selective regarding his selection of poetry and mostly serious people enjoyed it, but when in one of the TV programme, he sang tappe, majority of the common folk also liked him and wished him to continue singing for common folk also. It is pertinent to mention here that tappa is the lone genre of Pashto poetry, which does not exist in any other language. He had also attributed to the great singers of the past whose aura and charisma still remains intact including Muzaffar Khan, Gulnar Begum, Rafiq Shinwari etc by remixing their legendry songs. Being, himself a candidate of mysticism, it credits for Takkar who not only went for Rahman Baba’s mystic poetry but also acknowledged the elegant mysticism of Ghani Khan. Of the two, he terms the poetry of the later as the best regarding mysticism, which according to him is nothing but the acquaintance to the GOD Almighty. Regarding services for music, Takkar does not seem happy with most of the past singer who although bestowed with melodious voice, left singing but did not tried to serve their language in real meaning. He also feels uneasy with the present day Pashto music, prevailing in the market place, where by no heed is given to the selection of poetry and mostly substandard poetry is selected for singing. He considers it a serious threat to the Pashto music, which instead of promotion is causing huge loss to it.
Looking in to the history of Pashto music, it become obvious that up till now none of the singer worked with proper planning for the development of Pashto language and music i.e. most of them have not taken this profession as a mission. They adopted it merely as their source of income. But when it comes to Takkar, he kept on doing new experiments in the Pashto music. He has intentionally tried to add the musical flavors of different languages in to the Pashto music. He has added the Arabic, Turkish, Spanish and African beat to his compositions. At the same time, Takkar’s outwit is that he has kept the identity of Pashto music intact.
Unassuming, friendly and down-to-earth Takkar is a born and self-taught vocalist whose vocal resources have equipped him to also fluently render songs in languages other than Pashto like Farsi and Urdu. He had also held concerts not only in Pakistan, but also in Dubai, Britain, Canada, Germany and Afghanistan. In recognition of his unforgettable services to Pashto Music, the government of Pakistan awarded him with the Pride of Performance. He is also a recipient of numerous awards and certificates from a number of cultural organizations.