Mushfiq Hashimi: The Musician Who Escaped From Afghanistan

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The year is 1991….even though Soviet Union has pulled out of Afghanistan and predicted Najibullah will not last more than few months, he continues to rule Afghanistan. What is even more surprising is he has reinstated former ruler Zahir Shah’s citizenship and wants him to come back to Afghanistan from Italy, where he is exiled since he was overthrown in 1973. Meantime fierce fighting continues between mujaheddin and Najibullah’s army. One can hear deafening gunfire off and on indicating ongoing fighting and suddenly out of nowhere there was a gunshot followed by a scream.

Mushfiq Hashimi was born in Afghanistan into a family of musicians. He enjoyed watching movies and as a 4 year old, he used to come home after the movies and reenact the scenes. At age 5 years, he acted in a drama for his country’s Independence Day. He recalls his initial jitter and stage fear but once he saw the audience, paradoxically his fear subsided and was overcome by the desire to act well and was applauded for his acting. His father continued  to encourage young Mushfiq Hashimi.

At age 15 years Mushfiq joined Music Academy of Afghanistan and was guided by none other than the great Professor Rubin Chatterjee,  in Indian vocal classical music. He graduated from Kabul University at age 20 with a Bachelors degree in Theatre and prior to graduating, as a student he had started his own music academy, which as it grew in popularity had 200 students learning different types of music including instrumental. Ironically, he tells me, of the 200 students including himself, only he continues to teach and practice music today! In addition to music, Mushfiq learnt the art of Calligraphy and  painting and became very proficient at both. His knowledge of Calligraphy spans 12 different styles and and two languages, Farsi and Arabic.

Afghan Ambassador Handing over a plaque to Mushfiq

After a long days work, he had come home and was sitting in front of  the TV. There was no electricity and was sipping his tea when he heard the gunfire close to his house followed by the scream. It was his neighbors son, who had been struck by a stray bullet! He recalls the day, and I can see his eyes filling up. He remembers his neighbors burying their family members who had died during the fighting, in their own houses because they were afraid to take the bodies to the cemetery!

It was at that moment he decided to flee his country of birth. He left behind everything that he ever owned,  all his music books, paintings and Calligraphy works except for few momentos that he could carry in his hands. He escaped to Pakistan with not much money and no place to stay.

He recalls being hungry and as he was walking, he noticed all the sign boards and realized with his Calligraphy background, he could do a better job. He approached a shop owner and offered to make a new sign board. The first job he did, he charged Rs 250, next one Rs 350 and he kept increasing his price to Rs 750 and at the end he had accumulated sufficient money, actually more than he had expected.

To Mushfiq music is everything, rest is hobby. Now that he had earned some money, he set out to start a music school in Pakistan. He did well for 4 years from 1991 to 1994 but was never satisfied.  He left Pakistan in 1995, on his way to Khazakistan to what he thought was greener pasture but once again his search for a place to settle down continued and he left for Holland in 1997.
Once in Holland, he joined Rotterdam University to study music. He has fond memories of being interviewed by none other than the world renowned Flute Maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasya! After the interview, because of his background in music he was directly admitted to 3rd year. Apart from Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasya, he was also interviewed by Prof. Gustaf Rye, Sarod and Vocal Music Maestro and also by then famous Fayaz Khan, a Tabla maestro. Upon graduation from the University and working for  few years, he left Holland and Immigrated to Canada in the year 2001.

In Ottawa, Canada, he has started his own school by the name Mushfiq Arts Centre. He teaches Indian Classical, Qawwali, Bhajan, Ghazal and Pop Music, various instrumental music, Afghan Folk and Pop Music.
Mushfiq Hashimi is a disciple of Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty of the Patiala Gharana.  He has to date performed  all over Europe, Central Asia and in Canada.
We are glad that Mushfiq has decided to call Canada his home. He believes that through music, different traditions, cultures and people come together to sing in one voice, that of Humanity!

Author: Dr K.B. Mallya- Canada

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