Memos from Asia

Bulbulik- a Music School in Gulmit, Pakistan

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GULMIT VILLAGE, PAKISTAN – APRIL 14: An unidentified people in the Gulmit village, April 14, 2015, in Gulmit Village, Gulmit is the region of Gilgit territory in the Gilgit Baltistan region of Pakistan.

In the mountains of Northern Pakistan lies a small town of Gulmit which means the land of flowers. The people of Gulmit speak Wakhi language which is also spoken by some of the people of Tajikistan, Afghanistan and China.

Wakhi was declared vulnerable by the UNESCO’s Endangered Languages Project.

It is believed that around 40,000 people are left in the world who speak Wakhi. This was quite alarming for some Wakhi speakers who decided to take an initiative to preserve the language and its traditions.

In 2016, USAID supported this idea through its U.S Ambassador’s Fund for one year, hence the Bulbulik music school was established.

Bulbulik is basically a song sung by Pamiri women while grazing their livestock in the mountains. The founders of the school took inspiration from this song and established the Bulbulik Heritage Centre aiming to transfer the Wakhi heritage to the new generation through music. Thus, the center became the first music school located in the region.

The aim of the school is to preserve and promote the Wakhi language and culture. For this purpose, the school provided trainings for playing traditional musical instruments. The school has trained around 90 students between the ages of 15 to 25 to play different local musical instruments.

In addition, they arranged different musical concerts to promote the language. Artists were also invited to different television programs to perform their skills.

Through this initiative, it was also possible to document the folk songs in the form of a booklet.

Within a short span of time, the school has created a huge impact on the youth of the region. The younger generation have started playing the old musical instruments and are performing at different musical events throughout Pakistan.

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