: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Allah Bux Arisar
Sindhi folk singer, Mai Dhai : Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Allah Bux Arisar

UMERKOT: Mai Dhai Manganiyar, a folk star from the desert of Thar, will be the first voice to perform in United States of America and represent Pakistan at international music festivals in March.

Mai Dhai, 60, from a poor Manganiyar community of musicians, is a huge crowd puller when performing on stage with her face covered in a traditional veil. She is a part of the Pakistani troupe participating in the largest music festivals organized by South By South West festival (SxSW) of Austin, Texas in US.

Mai Dhai first appeared on stage in 2002 at Umerkot and received huge applause for her melodious singing which was similar to legendary Mai Bhagi, another Manganiyari female from Tharparkar known as ‘Koyel’ (nightingale) of Thar. Mai Dhai started singing at the age of 7. About her late appearance on stage, she told News Lens Pakistan that her husband was against women singing in the company of other men. A local politician Syed Sardar Shah convinced her husband to let her sing in public condition being the customary veil.

Thar Desert, stretching between Pakistan and India is known for poverty, droughts and sand dunes. Nevertheless it is rich in art, culture, poetry and music. The towns of Umerkot and Tharparkar have produced famous Thari singers including Mai Bhagi, Ustad Shafi Faqir, Ustad Shadi Khan, Karim Faqir, Ustad Allah Bachayo, Rafiq Faqir and Rajab Faqir, popular folk singers in both Pakistan and India. All these vocalists are known as ‘Faqirs’ (beggars) hailing from Manganiyar family of Thar Desert. The Manganiyars provide musical services at ceremonial occasions such as births, marriages, feasts, harvests, rural fairs and at Sufi shrines.

The Manganiyars, family of Mai Dhai – inhabiting Sindh and Rajasthan provinces of Pakistan and India respectively- have been gifted with melodious voices creating sweet tunes with heart-throbbing rhythm. Mai Dhai used to sing traditional songs in local wedding ceremonies and festivities in the company of females earning a little amount helping her family. A popular local saying ‘Manganiyar Raoe ta be sur me’, means even if a Manganiyar cries it would be melodic.

Mehnaz, a representative of Foundation of Arts, Culture and Education (FACE), told News Lens Pakistan that Mai Dhai is chosen as one of the six actors to represent Pakistan in March this year at one of the largest music festivals organized by South By South West festival (SXSW) of Austin, Texas, in US. Mai Dhai would also participating in International Day Stage and represent Pakistan at Russian House as part of SXSW festival in Austin.

Visiting the US to exhibit her talent Mai Dhai said that being illiterate and a poor village lady, she had never dreamed of visiting the big city in Pakistan let alone country like America. Though, Mai Dhai has got widespread popularity, she still grazes her goats, cooks for her family and sings songs in local festivities.

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Profile: Allah Bux Arisar was born on 1st January, 1977 in Village Haji Abdul Hakim Arisar of district Umerkot Sindh Pakistan which is an underprivileged, geo-physically remote, culturally isolated, socio economically deprived and drought hit area. He received most of his schooling and early college education in district Umerkot and later did graduation from Sindh University of Jamshoro. He is a media trainer, art promoter, social activist, .philanthropist, young leader, and public speaker. He has worked broadly with young people from diverse background. Allah Bux Arisar, with his pen name A.B. Arisar has been contributing his potential extensively in leading English and Urdu dallies and news channels of Pakistan. Currently he works with Dawn Newspaper and Dawn News Tv as its district correspondent based for Umerkot. The geographic standing of Umerkot falls adjoined to Indian border, therefore it has own distinction considering the conventional rivals. His reporting location has another important aspect as the area has equal population of Hindu and Muslims – approximately 1.2 million. Journalism Career He started his career in journalism in 2004 from “The Nation” , then he joined AAJ-TV-an Urdu Channel. In 2008 he joined Dawn media group and since then he is working with it. He has reported several events around the area such as human rights mainly minority rights, religion (interfaith harmony), violence against women and children, politics, health, education, history, culture etc. Along with journalism he has closely worked with multiple right-based organizations and raised the issues of marginalized people through organizing seminars, conferences, workshops, consultations and protest demonstrations. He has also been active in lobbying and advocacy on the issues of bonded labour, child abuse, and child labour, violence against women, minority rights and women rights. He also published stories regarding the plights of voiceless people in regular and social media. His reporting has jolted the concerned quarters and compelled them to address the particular issues. For example his story over killing of bonded laborers by landlord, got attention of authorities and accused was apprehended. For reference please follow below links Woman injured in landlord`s firing dies Main accused in triple murder surrenders He has also remained a member of different fact-finding committees on leading issues pertaining to bonded labourers, child rights violation, minority rights, women rights etc formed by SPARC, PILER, DDAT, Sami Foundation and different human rights organizations. For instance Thar peasants` murder: Fact-finding team casts doubt on investigation Currently he is a member of District Vigilance Committee on Bonded Labour government of Sindh, District Health vigilance committee district Umerkot too. Besides he has also been working to promote interfaith harmony, among Hindus, Muslims and Christians living in the district.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Its very pleasant to read this wonderful feature on an unknown singer from Thar Desert. Thar, which is rightly called an open museum of the nature, has produced the giant folk singers and muscians including Sadiq Fakeer, who has recently died in a fatal road acccident in Saudi Arabia, late Misri Diplai, Haider Rind, Mohan Baghat last but the least the blind singer Yousaf Fakeer of Qasbo village, who have not been mentioned in this story. Anyway, its great effort to promote such singers like Mai Dahi to an international level.

  2. Thank you Mehnaz and Raj kumar for promoting Mai Dhai, Its good news for all Umerkot peoples and esp for manghnyar community

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