Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Tappey: The art of Pashtun folk poetry

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by Rahmat Shah

Tappey ( Landay) is a form of folk poetry and consist of couplets, the first one consist of nine syllables and the second thirteen.
This format of poetry is described by some to consist of one and one half verses. The author is generally unknown. Some of them have names of authors or national figures and heroes attached.

Tappey are started with a fond opening word of ya qurbaan, meaning respect to the listener or the subject. Tappey are sung with loud melodious voice and could be accompanied by Mengay, Tabla, tembal, Baja and setaar. Tappey are generally sung over weddings, celebrations or just to tide over the long winter nights.

In weddings ceremonies it might have the form of two-person duet presented by male and female singer or two male singers. Tappa covers all forms of pashtun life ranging from love, passion, anger, hate, wars, history, heroes and villains.

Tappa : Cities and geography


The rugged pakhtun terrain from the borders of Chitral to Chaman and Ammu to the Abasin is the source of inspiration in the form of Tappa. It is therapy for the soul of the inhabitants of these mountains and valleys.

The Tappey will often include references to the cities of Pekhawer, Kabul, Kandahar, Nangrahar, Chaman, Mardan, Swat, Bajaur, Nowkhar, Krapa and Tirra as well as the landmark mountains like Khyber, Tatarra, Malakand, Tirra and Elam. Other themes are Islam religious in spiritual, through mentioning spiritual leaders of the past like Pir baba and Kaka saib. As well as the fragrant flowers like Kashmale, rose and Chambele to mention a few.

Tappa and the beloved 

The tappey speaker is descriptive on what he wants from his love. He compares the beauty of his love without devotion to a flower without fragrance.The beloved has to have wafa (loyalty) or heart felt devotion, she is mentioned with great reverence and respect, her lips are red, face ruby white and eyes, clear, shining, full of passion and beautiful like the flower of nargis (narcissus).

Her hair is long and consists of jet-black locks often compared to day and night. Some tappey describes the face of the beloved as roohani as Islam and the hair as pagan and kafiristan.

The lover never has a chance to marry the girl of his dreams. It is satisfying to dream and imagine seeing her fetching the water in the water pitcher Mangey from the water bank Guuder or well.

One historian noted this commonality between Pashtun and Jews by reading the frequent mention of water bank and wells in our folk poetry. He noted the same in the Israelites, like Moses, Jacob and many others who fell in love with their wives by wells and fountains.

Tappa and emotions

There are other themes, there is the Sohbat, the unending love talk of lovers and the state of bless, longed for in many verses. The beltoon the other fellow who has the same love interest is a hateful soul. He is waham and waswasa and the extreme fear of being accepted by the family and the beloved. The fond neglect or Makeiz exhibited by the beloved does not allay the fear either or remedy the situation.

Tappa: When love is like a bird

The beloved is not trustworthy she may fall for the talk of the beiltoon who is like Latoo, a bird that changes his tone frequently to attract his own kind in the forest. Tapoose tour kargha the crow is an ugly bird at times it brings bad news, by repeatedly crowing in front of the house. The qa qa of the crow inspires aw and fear of loss.

The Tappey covers the constant struggle of the pashtun with nature, the harsh weather, and drought. With all those wars, struggle for existence and survival I wonder how Adam Khan and Durkhaney pulled a love affair, so successful to be remembered for generations.

Some Tappey 

Guloona Dir Di Khudai Di DirKki,
Da Sabar Gul Ba Khpal Ashna La Warkawoma

The garden is full of flowers but I have to present the flower of patience to my friend.

Khude Me Bacha Qurr’an Me Pir De
Rasul-lah Ba Shafae’t Za Ma Kaweena.

God is my King,
The prophet will plead for my blessing.

Da Pir Baaba Lare Di Sakhte
Da Gulo Lakhte Jenay Sta Da Para Zam’a

The journey to the Mazaar of the saint, Pir Baaba is harsh and difficult
But I have to do it for the girl who is as beautiful as a flowering branch.

Zaan De Zarho Jamo Ke Jorhe Ka
Laka Pa Wran Kele Ke Bagh Da Gulo Weena.

She dressed herself in tattered clothes and
Looks like a garden of flowers showing through the ruins of a village.

Ka Da Zelmo Na Pura Na Shwa
Fakhr-e Afghana Jenekey Ba De Gateena.

If the young lads of the land failed to achieve the goals of Bacha Khan the pride of the Afghan nation; then it will be the lasses  for the achievement of his dreams and mission.

Meena Zari De Na Qabli Gi
Janaan Pa Ghetto Khelqu Zaan Hesaba We Na.

The gestures of the lovers are rejected, because of the great difference of class; the love interest has no time for the poor lovelorn.

Akher Ba Wran She Pekhawara
Da Nangrahar Juna Khere Derta Kaweena..

The lasses of Nangrahar are praying for the demise of Peshawar city; as they miss their lads attracted by the glitter of the City.

Ma Da Shamshaad Lekhta Ganrhale
Da Mere Zoya Da Azgho De Dakka Krhama.

I was dreaming of you as a beautiful cypress tree,
Instead you turned out to be a thorny bush.

Che Da Ayaz Pa Mekh Sheida Sho
Mahmood Bacha Da Ghulamano Ghulam Shuna.

Mahmood Ghaznvi uplifted the one time slave Ayaz to such a high position,
that the king sought his advice in the matters of the state as if the slave was the ruler and the ruler was the slave..

Bes Ka Pa Degha Zay’e Pregda
Soke Che Kheista Ashna Lari Ghamjan Ba Weena

Let us close and leave these Tappey alone,
Those who have a beautiful lover, have to put up with some sadness…


- original article by Rahmat Shah