The music of Kalasha

The music of Kalasha

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A short history of Kalash

The Kalasha consider that God had saved the three Kalash valleys as his personal keep. And then gave it to their ancestors whilst they became unwilling to marry. A few overseas historians say, that the Kalasha are descended from the squaddies of Alexander. Wazir Ali Shah, a historian of Chitral mentions that, in statistics to Alexander’s marketing campaign withinside the Hindu Kush, there are bills of skirmishes with pagan tribes with a way of life much like the Kalasha.
Other scholars, such as G.A. Grierson and Ghulam Murtaza, suppose that probably the Kalasha inhabited the region among decrease Bashgul Valley and Ghaga Serai (in Afghanistan) for about 3 centuries. Then, across the 10th and 11th century A.D, they had been pushed north toward Chitral via way of means of the Bashali Kafirs. Jettmar additionally attracts a hyperlink among goat worship most of the mountain tribes of Iran and the area of the Karakorams withinside the east in which there may be severe goat breeding and the Kalasha who’re well-known for his or her abnormal rites and ideals related with wild and home goats.
Furthermore, With the assist of Wazir Ali Shah, who translated a few applicable quantities of records known as ‘Tarik-e-Chitral’, via way of means of the Persian pupil Ghulam Murtaza, Gillian Darling statistics that, at some point of the primary millennium B.C., the entire region of Chitral (which, in keeping with Jettmar, is near crucial migration routes utilized by the Indo-Aryan invaders-the Oxus-Wakhan Corridor withinside the north and the Kabul valley withinside the south), became managed via way of means of the early Darian Iranians.

The tempo of Kalasha music.

Most of the Kalasha songs and traditional melodies consist of two parts. The first part initiates the melody and ends on a pause, usually with a note that creates a feeling of suspension. Then the 2nd half initiates and the melody progresses towards the end.

Kalasha songs and Music consists of three types of tempos namely Drazailak, Dushak, and Ca. The melodies of Drazalik and Dusak are based on the two-half structure whereas the examples of Ca’ show different trends. The ‘Chawmousi Ca’’ has a linear melody with no pauses and ‘Zhoshi Ca’’, although consisting of two halves, bears different notes as root notes for both the halves, manifesting the, otherwise less occurring, property of key change in Kalasha melody.

Kalasha girl

Different melodic structure

There also occur seldom different melodic structures, sometimes even peculiar to a specific song, e.g. in ‘Dowry song’, where the song has an initiating phrase of four notes after which another phrase of four notes in repeated four times; in other folk songs of Kalash, there are only three notes used in a very short and linear melody.

The Kalasha folk songs hold much importance because it has a lot to tell about the culture.

Therefore, along with the melody and rhythm, we need to study the lyrics of Kalasha Songs as Well. For this purpose, the lyrical content of folk songs has been explained in the context of the Kalasha culture.

Related Article: Kalasha, Importance of music in Kalash culture

Kalasha kids

Explanation of a folk song for Zhoshi festival

This song about the event of Zhoshi.  Children, as well as the elders, sing it.

The cattle houses decorated with specific yellow flowers. A ritual takes place in which

Juniper branches lit and walnut leaves and the yellow flowers sprinkled with milk.

According to the tradition, only after the decoration can the women go to the cattle houses.

This specific tradition, which is a part of the Zhoshi festival, is called “Cheer Piyek”. Houses and cattle houses decorated first of all, and then people go to the cattle houses and collect milk. Then people converse with shepherds as they descend from the pastures after a whole season. The shepherds bring along gifts, a variety of fresh dairy products, for the people and children specifically.

Some Kalasha songs are about events in Kalash valley.

There is a song about an event in Kalash.  An event happened in Brun village of Kalash. The poet refers to autumn when the sun sets on the Majam peak. He says he went to the pasture and then went to the holy village of Pazila (Kalasha ancestor). The sacrifice of animals is an interesting custom. Each year, every shepherd has to take one sheep/goat out of the flock, turn his face towards Tsiam, pray to God, and say that he has kept this animal in the name of God.



Purification of animals

From that day onwards, that animal is considered to be pure. Its hair is not cut.  Neither colored or any harm brought to it. From that day onward, it lives to be sacrificed. The poet then says that he took the animal to the high altar of Mahadev (goddess) and sacrificed it. However, his prayer and sacrifice were not taken. Moreover,  Ingaw and Mahadew turned their back to him and the Divine provider sent his messenger at Ingaw and Mahadev.

Ambiguous tradition

Some aspects are ambiguous in the Kalasha tradition. One of them is that they do not know what or who exactly Ingaw and Mahadev. Some Kalash say that they are places.  While some say that they are beings. But they lack any linkage to Mahadev. They don’t have any stories related to Mahadev or his attributes.

Kalash says that Balimahin is the divine provider. It is a being of some form.  There is no place, tree, or carving pattern in existence with this name. Whereas Ingaw and Mahadev, according to some Kalash, are the names of high alters. The name Mahadev is also a part of Hindu mythology.

It is attributed to Lord ShivaThe Kalash believes that Balamahin comes from Tsiam, where he dwells on a pure and evergreen tree, whose leaves never shed. He will come to the opening ceremony of temples and in the winter festival of Chitrimas.

So this song clears it in a way that Ingaw and Mahadev are the names of two places where Balamahin sent his messengers.


As a musicologist, my suggestion is to review our tradition and folk culture otherwise we are going against our identity. Folk music has tremendous sanity. It can make even an insane person sane. Just listening to the folk music of Chitral he may calm down. But western music- even a sane person may start feeling jerk. All that happened with modern art like paintin, music, poetry, and other art forms, it is great but yet it is not sane.

It is a need of the time that all the folk of Chitral and Kalash songs should be preserved.  So, the next generation could start from A and not from Z. In this way, the treasure trove of Kalash culture could be saved. Muhammad Bugi Ansari, a Pakistani artist is a trailblazer and torchbearer for this cause. He is currently living in Holland and doing his best to help and preserve Kalash culture.

Saif Uddin khan

The writer is a Culture critic based in Chitral.

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