Dialogue Series, Race & Society

A Taste of Pakistan: Music & Food from the North


On October 9, 2017, Waleed Zahoor, Publications Intern at Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS), and a senior student at Georgetown University in Qatar, was invited to hold a rabab recital, a stringed instrument known as the lion of instruments played mainly in Afghanistan, Iran, and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Santosh Kulkarni, a seasoned musician, accompanied Zahoor by playing rhythmic beats on the tabla. The event titled, “A Taste of Pakistan: Music & Food from the North” was attended by a sizeable audience of faculty, staff, students, and members of the Pakistani community in Qatar. Delicacies from Northern Pakistan including chapli kebab were served for the guests.

Zahoor started the performance by introducing the rabab to the audience, many of who were listening to the instrument for the first time. He shared details about the structure and making of the artistic instrument, carved from a single piece of wood and decorated with intricate inlays of pearl. Zahoor also talked about the history of rabab, noting that attestations for rabab can be found in Persian texts dating back to 7th century CE. He also discussed the religious significance of rabab in Sikhism and Sufi Islam, and elaborated on how the instrument was played in Khanqahs in Iran and Afghanistan.

In the hour-long recital, Zahoor played a diverse selection of songs in Burushashki, Dari, Hindi, Pashto, Persian, and Urdu. He introduced the songs as he played them and translated verses from the songs for the audience. Zahoor also shared the romantic Pashto folk tale of Adam Khan and Durkhanai and the story of Mullah Mohammad Jon and Ayesha, a tale of two lovers from Afghanistan. Zahoor quoted famous poets and discussed how the rabab has left its mark on Persian and Pashto poetry as it is frequently mentioned by revered poets including Amir Khusrow, Ferdowsi, Ghani Khan, Hafez Shirazi, Muahammad Iqbal, and Rahman Baba. Zahoor ended the performance with a short improvisational piece that he played with Santosh, his partner on the tabla.


Waleed Zahoor is a senior at Georgetown University in Qatar, majoring in International Politics. He works as a Publications Intern at the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS). Zahoor has a deep interest in Pashtun history, culture, music, and poetry, and is a self-taught rabab player.